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Partitioning Iraq

Muhannad El-Azawi


Muhannad El-Azawi* documents the planned destruction of Iraq following the US invasion and calls on Iraqis not to fall in the trap laid for them

October 7, 2010

The US occupation has plunged Iraq into years of security breakdown and social and political chaos. A genocidal war has claimed hundreds of lives a day and sapped the country of its human resource potential through the demolition of the edifice of the modern state and the prevalence of the law of the jungle, which together created fertile soil for terrorism and violence which, in turn, have been used to justify the trade in security services and the "soft" invasion. From the outset various Arab quarters fell in with the Iraqi enterprise, inspired by the notion that by currying favour with Washington they would acquire a piece of the Iraqi pie.

The pie shows clear signs that it is soon to be cut, down the middle, between Kurds and Arabs and, if that fails, into eight petty states. Some Arab quarters were actually keen on furthering such plans, despite the fact that their implementation would propel the entire region to the brink of warfare and rampant chaos, and the regional and international balance would tip further and further away from Arab interests. However, it appears that, in these days of Arab disarray, the proponents and promoters of partition have made a pact with the merchants of death and dollar worshippers of Iraqi origin.

The US refuses to admit the strategic sin it committed by invading Iraq, which makes the situation there more complex, especially in light of the operative values there, with all their detrimental effects and pernicious imported political instruments. The experts in US political and strategic research centres, think tanks and decision-making centres have blamed George W Bush and his team of neoconservative ideologues for the political, security and humanitarian disasters that have swept Iraq, undermined the efficacy of American foreign policy and contributed to spread the cycle of violence and counter violence in the Middle East.

However, the events we see today serve as the bloody testimony to numerous strategic mistakes that various different quarters of the American establishment have been perpetuating for decades, at least since the post-Vietnam war era. They also testify, of course, to the American bias in favour of its foremost strategic ally Israel, and the consequent prioritisation of military force as a means to attain political objectives.

From the outset of its occupation, the US pursued a policy of "soft partitioning" of Iraqi society by means of the pitiful political process it set in motion through the imposition of a set of legal instruments and executive bodies designed for that purpose. There is also "hard partitioning" aimed at driving physical wedges between Iraqis in the cities and provinces through the creation of a climate of internecine conflict. The process led to hundreds of murders, the displacement of hundreds of thousands and the elimination of educated elites. It targeted the middle class, in particular, as this had been the source of the skills and talents that had formerly managed the country's institutions. The purpose was to destroy the components of a strong unified state, and its effect was to pave the way for the proliferation and mounting ferocity of sectarian and ethnic militias.

The edicts issued by the notorious Bremer gave the new system a gloss of political and legal legitimacy, and drew the red lines that the new political elites, to this day, are unwilling to cross or alter. The laws and edicts for the administration of the state, the uprooting of the Baath Party, the dissolution of the old Iraqi armed forces and the assimilation of the militias into the new armed forces, the anti- terrorism law, the shape of the new government and, indeed, the new constitution were expressly designed with an eye to serving the partition plans. The following are the most recent publicised official plans for the partition of Iraq:

- A Pentagon project for the restructuring of the Middle East appeared in the Armed Forces Journal in July 2006, "Blood borders: How a better Middle East would look" by retired Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters, an exponent of American neoconservative thought. The project outlines a vision for redrawing the map of the region with the aim of preserving Israel's hold over all the Arab and Palestinian occupied territory and safeguarding peace and stability in the region by means of the deterrent power of Israel's overwhelming military superiority, on the one hand, and the fragmentation of Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia into small and mutually hostile petty states. The plan calls for the creation of a "Greater Kurdistan", made up of the three northern provinces of Iraq, including oil-rich Kirkuk, as well as bits of Iran, Syria, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The declared pretext is to "restore the historically abused rights of minorities."

- In early May 2008, Joseph Biden, who was then Democratic senator for Delaware, and Leslie Gelb, honorary chairperson of the Senate's Council on Foreign Relations, called for the partition of Iraq into three autonomous regions, one Kurdish, one Sunni and one Shia.

- "The case for soft partition in Iraq" is a policy paper issued by the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy, which is part of the Washington-based Brookings Institution. The paper discussed the feasibility of dividing Iraq into sectarian and ethnic regions linked by a federal government. In addition to assessing the possible risks and what had been accomplished to date, the paper offered recommendations for overcoming the difficulties that the various parties would face. The project is referred to as "Plan B" by the authors Edward Joseph, a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution who served with the UN Peace Keeping Forces in the Balkans, and Michael O'Hanlon, an American national security specialist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who also served with UN Peace Keeping forces in various countries. In view of this common element in their backgrounds it is not surprising that joint peacekeeping forces along the borders of the three regions play a key role in their project.

- In a speech delivered in August 2010 on US troop withdrawals from Iraq, Vice-President Biden called upon the Kurds, Shia and Sunni to "share wealth and power and end their differences". The formula is a clear reference to the political instruments intended to promote and perpetuate the ethnic/sectarian triangle of the partition project.

All Iraqis must be on guard against US-Zionist schemes aimed at advancing the project to partition Iraq. The following offers the most relevant background information on these schemes.

NORTHERN IRAQ: In my discussion of this matter I remain entirely neutral in my handling of the given facts following the collapse of the former value system, one of the most significant indications of which is the unswerving attempts on the part of the Kurdish separatist parties to monopolise the keys to power, influence and wealth at the expense of Iraq as a unified state. They have sought to reinforce their national separatist culture through various practices and demands, which divide Iraqis into first, second and third class citizens. Such influences bred an entirely new political generation firm in their belief in secession, ethnic partisanship and an independent statelet of their own, in spite of the fact that the militias of the Kurdish parties had been at each others' throats throughout the 1990s for reasons to do with family feuds, wealth and plunder. Also, in the post-invasion era, we find increasing use of the term "disputed areas". The notion jars ominously with the concept and reality of a single unified state. But with oil-producing Kirkuk, fertile Mosul and all the governorates that form Iraq's strategic reservoirs at the centre of the strife, one begins to sense why the term gained currency. Hardly had the smoke of the invasion cleared than representatives of foreign oil firms and their political adjuncts rushed to northern Iraq where they obtained financial incentives to introduce provisions into the Iraqi constitution to privatise the country's strategic assets so that they could be handed to the chiefs of the family-based parties in the north.

The Peshmerga Kurdish militia is more than 80,000 strong and bristling with arms from the former Iraqi army which they seized in 1991 and 2003. In the autumn of 2008, three C-130 aircraft laden with light arms landed in Suleimaniya. Soon afterwards a clash erupted between the Kurdish militia and central government forces in Khanqin and nearby towns. There was no mention of the skirmish by the government or in the press.

Occupation forces have been training Kurdish militias for some time. But why, for what ends and under what terms? US officials have openly aired fears of an Arab-Kurdish war. US Ambassador Ryan Crocker aired this concern in the course of his observations on the developments connected with the formation of the government. It was also brought up by Foreign Policy under the headline, "What America left behind in Iraq". The article speaks of Kurdish aspirations to seize control of Arab areas and the immanent explosion of the "Arab-Kurdish powder keg". That spectre is looming closer and closer to judge from the alarming political developments we see today.

SOUTHERN IRAQ: The pleas for help from southern Iraq point to an arms race in the southern governorates that has reached such a feverish pitch as to drive the price of weapons up five times. This is occurring against the backdrop of a proliferation of religious authorities, the blare of their competing ideologies and propaganda, the growing ferocity of their struggle over power and influence, and the spread of their militias. There are now at least 14 militias of differing allegiances, ideological orientation and sources of finance, on top of a government presence that is ideologically partisan and fired with sectarian fervour. Southern Iraq has become the scene not only for the breeding of militias, as though it were some new profession, but also of waves of detention, systematic torture and regional strong-arming. This armed chaos brims with unpredictable dangers, not least of which is the reproduction of the Lebanese or Somalian syndromes. These would be deliberately precipitated by fuelling strife or even triggering civil war in ostensible response to the squawks that can now be heard calling for the secession of Basra or of the southern province without the inclusion of the Central Euphrates province that is currently being internationalised as the "Shia Vatican".

CENTRAL IRAQ: Central and northern Iraq have been reeling under a civil war that has been raging since 2005. Against a backdrop in which sectarian parties have monopolised the instruments of power and the new institutions of government, the politics of exclusion, human rights violations, ethic cleansing, forced starvation, mass arrests and systematic assassinations run rampant. If one had access to the untold numbers of people who are arrested by the day, we would find that most were detained for reasons having to do with sectarian allegiances and class jealousies, and that if charges were levelled against them at all they are not founded on any concrete evidence, to which the recent Falluja incident offers the clearest testimony. The preference for repression, relying on torture and other forms of physical and psychological abuse is the common denominator of the new politicians. Opportunism and greed are also common traits. An Arab government has been working to section off Al-Inbihar province as a separate region and has hired a team of local political mercenaries and merchants of death for the purpose. The design is certain to fail because the people of Al-Inbihar are on guard against it. There is also an attempt in progress to internationalise the separation of Kirkuk as a province in accordance with a proposal by the UN representative. The Saban Centre's suggestion that the UN and the Arab League should be charged with the partition of Iraq and Sudan testifies to such schemes.

In short, there is every reason to fear that the experts in Western think tanks and mercenary companies are still bent on fuelling strife and igniting civil war along the ethnic and sectarian divides in Iraq. Where would this lead Iraq and the Iraqi people? Clearly to a kind of test tube reproduction of Somalia aimed at partitioning the state. With dozens of militias operating outside of the control of central authorities, subject only to the orders of their parties and eager to flex their muscles, and with the terrorist elements that have infiltrated the country, the ground is ripe for such experiments.

Nearly seven months after the farce of the American- sponsored Iraqi elections, Iraq is experiencing a surge in political agitation that threatens all the Iraqi people. Such a climate breeds a class of mercenaries, demagogues, traffickers in sectarianism and in Iraqi blood, and those who climb aboard the patriotic bandwagon with the purpose of deceiving the Iraqi people and blinding them to the plots that are being hatched to divide Iraq and that they are colluding with behind the scenes. Meanwhile, nothing has really changed in the tragic Iraqi scene. The cruel occupation still weighs upon the Iraqi people throughout the country, in spite of the systematic propaganda campaign. The cameras may be showing images of troop withdrawals, but in fact what is happening is a thinning of the units, reassignments to Afghanistan and subtle changes in the mode of warfare. At the same time a controversial legal edifice remains in effect, even though this, too, has been entirely undermined by various political machinations, with the exception of the prime minister's privatisation of sectarian parties, the immortal if officially expired Article 140, the fanatically and prejudicially implemented clone of the American anti-terrorism law, which is used to silence political opponents, and its inverse the amnesty law, which is used to acquit the thieves and murderers who managed to climb the government ladder. As for the so-called government armed forces, they rely on the sectarian-based rumours of hired spies.

There are millions of displaced Iraqis both in Iraq and abroad who are victims of international and militia terrorism. There are a million widows and five million orphans. Tens of thousands of detainees have died or are rotting in Iraqi prisons. The army of unemployed tops 70 per cent of the population, yet Iraq imports foreign labour. If these figures referred to American victims the entire world would be in an uproar. We saw US President Barack Obama congratulating his army but he did not utter a word of apology to the Iraqi people for the Iraqi holocaust. Apparently, Third World peoples are merely the fuel and fodder for America's wars.

We therefore urge the Iraqi people to avoid the traps of partition and civil strife, and to destroy the pernicious mainstays of political sectarianism. The true and authentic people of Iraq must join forces to fight the plans that aim to dismantle Iraq, divide its people, and seize control over its sources of wealth. Towards this end they must develop and follow a roadmap to revive Iraq's power to restore and safeguard stability and equilibrium in the region and the world. After all, the keys to Iraqi power and influence are there if we summon the collective resolve to use them.

* The writer is director of Saqr Centre for Strategic Studies.

:: Article nr. 70520 sent on 07-oct-2010 18:08 ECT


Link: weekly.ahram.org.eg/2010/1018/op31.htm

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