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The Soft Partition Of Iraq

It will end in breakfast, lunch and dinner for the regional powers with decades of war over who gets what.
by Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
Washington (UPI) Jul 06, 2007
The partition of Iraq is far from an original idea. The notion has been floated around Washington and Baghdad numerous times since the start of the war in 2003. Pundits, journalists and politicians have in the past proposed the partition of Iraq in various forms despite strong opposition from Iraqi leaders, the Bush administration and the Iraqi Study Group headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton.

But as the country seems to be drawn more and more into a fully fledged civil war that is killing hundreds of people on a monthly basis -- as well as increasing the numbers of U.S. casualties -- the notion of partition may just possibly offer the best solution, if only to keep the antagonists apart and to stop the slaughter.

This time the idea stems from two American scholars, Michael O'Hanlon, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, and Edward Joseph, a visiting scholar. They are the authors of a newly released report from the Saban Center for Middle East Policy entitled "The case for a soft partition in Iraq" as an alternative plan for stabilizing the war-torn country.

Unfortunately for Iraq, their plan calls for breaking up the country into three separate entities.

"Soft partition has a number of advantages over other 'Plan B' proposals currently under discussion," argue the two Brookings scholars.

Most other plans focus on a U.S. troop withdrawal or on the containment of "civil war spillover (into) other countries, rather than the prevention of a substantial worsening of Iraq's civil war."

The difference with a soft partition, say the authors of the report, is that it "could allow the United States and its partners to preserve their core strategic goals: an Iraq that lives in peace with its neighbors, opposes terrorism, and gradually progress towards a more stable future."

O'Hanlon and Joseph believe it would "further allow for the possibility over time for the re-establishment of an Iraq increasingly integrated across sectarian lines rather than permanently segregated."

But this partitioning of Iraq comes with a caveat; it needs to be carefully implemented. If successful, it would help end the war and the enormous loss of life on all sides.

But what about al-Qaida-sponsored terrorism? What guarantees that their actions would stop with partition and not continue so long as U.S. troops remain in Iraq?

O'Hanlon and Joseph argue that if the U.S. surge of additional American forces into the battle ordered by President George W. Bush several months ago and related efforts to broker a political accommodation with the existing government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki failed, soft partition may be the only means of avoiding an intensification of the civil war and the growing threats of a regional conflagration.

What the two scholars propose is to build two more autonomous regions, along the lines of the existing Kurdish autonomy region in the northern part of the country; one for Sunni Muslims and one for the Shiites.

In other words, Iraq would become a federation, or a confederation, loosely governed from Baghdad where the central authority would oversee issues such as national defense and the fair sharing of oil resources among all three regions, leaving local government to run the rest.

O'Hanlon proposes a seven-step solution to help make the transition as peaceful as possible.

1. A soft partition of Iraq will not help speed up the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country. It will not be a welcome message by most people, but it is a realistic message. In fact, O'Hanlon suggests keeping at least 150,000 U.S. troops for the foreseeable future and then gradually cutting down to about 50,000 to 75,000 troops to be kept in Iraq for several years to come. O'Hanlon compares the situation in Iraq to that of the Bosnia region.

2. You have to think about drawing regional boundaries and where you draw those boundaries.

3. You also have to think about how you go about protecting people as they relocate. About 5 million Iraqis are likely to be concerned by these measures.

4. You have to help people start over their new lives once they have relocated.

5. You have to have some kind of concept for sharing oil revenues; otherwise you risk feeding the rift between the Sunnis and Shiites.

6. You need some way to track people; you need identity cards. That will make it harder for terrorists from al-Qaida operating in western Baghdad to infiltrate Shiite neighborhoods.

7. And lastly you need to rebuild institutions.

The authors of the report are realistic in that they admit from the outset to sharing "some of these concerns (regarding partition) and, as a matter of principle and theory, disliked partition as a solution to ethno-sectarian conflict."

However, O'Hanlon and Joseph see the option of partition in Iraq becoming at some point the "lesser of the range of possible evils."

Backing up their theory, O'Hanlon and Joseph refer to partition in history, citing the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I that "carved up much of the Middle East (including Iraq)."

In fact, it was the Treaty of Sevres that shared the spoils of the Ottoman Empire at the close of WWI, carving up much of the Middle East. And look where it got us today.

The Treaty of Versailles demanded that Germany pay reparations for the war, and it eventually led to World War II.

There has to be a lesson in there somewhere.

related report
Relative lull over Fourth week
by Martin Sieff
Washington (UPI) Jul 06, 2007 The rate at which U.S. troops suffered casualties in Iraq fell significantly during the past nine days -- a possible reflection of insurgents being put on the defensive by current U.S. offensive operations. As of Friday, Jul 06, 2007, 3,590 U.S. troops had been killed in Iraq since the start of military operations to topple Saddam Hussein on March 19, 2003. Of these, 2,952 were killed in action, according to official figures issued by the U.S. Department of Defense.

In all, 26 U.S. soldiers were killed in the nine-day period from June 28 through Jul 06 at an average rate of just under 3 per day. This was a more than 25 percent improvement on the previous 12-day period when 51 U.S. soldiers were killed through June 27 at an average rate of 4.25 per day.

The latest figures were also a marked improvement on those for the previous 23-day period from May 15 through June 15 when 89 U.S. soldiers were killed at an average rate of 3.88 per day.

The latest figures therefore marked a welcome significant improvement on figures for the previous seven weeks. During the 23-day period from May 1 through May 23, 82 U.S. soldiers were killed at an average rate of just over 3.5 per day.

The latest figures were slightly worse than the 12-day period from April 19 through April 30 when 33 U.S. soldiers were killed at an average rate of 2.75 per day. But they were still an improvement on the 28-day period from March 22 to April 18 when 87 U.S. soldiers were killed at an average rate of just over 3.1 per day. And the latest figures were also a slight improvement on the 22-day period from Feb. 28 to March 21, when 67 U.S. soldiers were killed at an average rate of just over three per day.

Some 79 U.S. soldiers were killed in the 27-day period from Feb. 1 to Feb. 27 -- an average rate of just over 2.93 per day. Those figures were almost identical to the previous 27-day period when 78 U.S. troops were killed from Jan. 4 to Jan. 31 at an average rate of 2.81 per day. And they are very close to the rate during the most recent nine-day period.

The latest figures were also significantly better than 25 percent worse than the fatality rate of 3.4 killed per day during the 29-day period from Dec. 7 to Jan. 4, when 99 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq. But they were still 33 percent worse than the death rate during the 16-day period from Nov. 21 to Dec. 6 when 35 U.S. soldiers were killed at an average rate of just over 2.2 per day.

During the most recent nine-day period from June 28 through Jul 06, 208 U.S. soldiers were injured in Iraq at an average rate of just over 23.1 per day. This marked a dramatic improvement of well over 25 percent on the previous 12-day period from June 16 through June 27 when 400 U.S. troops were injured at an average rate of 33.3 per day. That figure now appears to have been a spike in the statistics reflecting the heavy fighting at the time in Baghdad and the Baqubah region.

As of Friday, Jul 06, 26,558 U.S. soldiers had been injured in Iraq since the start of military operations to topple Saddam.

However, the latest figures were still more 33 percent higher than the injured-per-day rate of the 23-day period from May 24 through June 15 when 401 U.S. soldiers were injured at an average rate of 17.4 per day.

The latest figures were better than the 23-day period from May 1 through May 23 when 637 U.S. soldiers were injured at an average rate of 27.7 per day. But they were still almost 200 percent higher than during the 12 days from April 19 through April 30 when 148 U.S. troops were wounded at an average rate of 12.33 per day. The latest rate of injured per day was also almost more than 250 percent higher than during the 28-day period from March 22 through April 18 when 254 U.S. soldiers were injured at a rate of just over nine per day.

The latest figures were almost identical to the rate of 23.2 wounded per day during the 22-day period from Feb. 28 to March 21. And they were more than 40 percent worse than during the 27-day period from Feb. 1 to Feb. 27, when 398 U.S. soldiers were injured at an average rate of 16.9 per day.

The latest rates of U.S. soldiers injured per day were also more than 40 percent worse than the figures for the 27-day period from Jan. 4 to Jan. 31 when 465 U.S. soldiers were injured at an average rate of 17.2 per day.

The latest figures, if they are maintained, therefore may suggest that new U.S. strategies and current U.S. operations are starting to degrade the offensive capabilities of the Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

Source: United Press International

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The Invisible Refugees Of Iraq
Washington (UPI) Jul 06, 2007
The displacement of Iraqi refugees -- close to 4 million -- represents the most serious crisis involving population movements in the Middle East since the exodus of Palestinians in 1948, when fleeing the creation of the state of Israel, hundreds of thousands established themselves in decrepit refugee camps in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, as well as in Gaza and in the West Bank.







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