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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Beyond ‘Iraq’

    Evan Lisull columnist
    Evan Lisull

    Recently, a growing number of political analysts have argued that the best solution in Iraq is to partition the country into different regions, allowing each region to govern itself independently, rather than being beholden to the ineffective central government. However, President Bush has repeatedly refused this notion, instead reiterating that the United States’ goal in Iraq is to establish a “”unitary Iraqi state”” founded on democratic principles. Yet such an Iraq has never existed, and, judging by its history, never will. In actuality, “”Iraq”” is an artificial construct, a relic of imperialism and the colonial era.

    The Ottoman Empire, the previous rulers of present-day Iraq, had divided what is now known as “”Iraq”” in three different divisions: one centered around Basra in Southeastern Iraq, one covering Baghdad and the western deserts, and one centered around Mosul in Northern Iraq, which often referred to in the media as Kurdistan (although this ignores the fact that Kurdistan traditionally covers area in Turkey, Iran, and Syria, among other nations).

    When World War I ended and the Ottoman Empire was dismantled, the British conquerors could not be bothered with such distinctions, and governed the three regions under a single League of Nations mandate.

    How is it, then, that such a disparate confederacy, with the conflicts that have become so evident in recent years, has managed relative security in its history? Because, throughout its history, Iraq has been under the control of a strong dictator, in one form or another. Upon achieving independence in 1932, it was governed by a monarchy. In World War II, the British came back and instituted military rule. The monarchy was reinstated after the war, but was overthrown in 1958 by a military coup. The country was led by generalissimos in the spirit of Musharraf and Pinochet until 1968, when an Arab-Socialist party – commonly known as the Ba’ath Party – took over in a coup. You may recognize one of the major figures behind the coup: a politician known as Saddam Hussein. In short, it is only the strong fist of a dictator that has kept these disparate regions together.

    A parallel can be drawn to the nations of India and Pakistan. It is hard for our generation to imagine the two countries under one authority. But, for nearly a century, the British ruled them as a single colony. It wasn’t until the advent of independence and the democratic ideals embodied in the protests led by Mahatma Gandhi, that the inherent differences between the two led Britain to simultaneously grant independence to the colony, and to partition it into two separate states. Could Pakistan and India have survived under a single democracy? Absolutely not. It was only the military rule of Great Britain that allowed for it.

    So it should come as no surprise that a recent National Intelligence report found that the lone bright spot on progress in “”Iraq”” is the success of “”bottom up initiatives.”” These initiatives, rather than attempting to achieve progress through the central Baghdad government, engage local leaders and give increased power to the various regions. The United States has found that dealing with local authorities is much easier than trying to make nations as dissimilar as Pakistan and India form a coalition government. In our country, this is the core political value known as federalism.

    This tendency is also reflected on a wider level. In a recent survey, 98.7 percent of Kurds voted for secession from Iraq. The Sunni factions of the Iraqi parliament recently withdrew, and show no signs of coming back. While various politicos wax poetic about “”coalition government,”” the coalition is over and the separation has begun.

    However, while the partition of India and Pakistan serve as a useful historical comparison, it should also serve as a warning. The sudden drawing of borders, without any sort of British involvement outside of precipitous withdrawing of military personnel, led to the bloodshed that occurred as Muslims and Hindus migrated to their respective partitions. The United States should begin planning now for a three-way division, even if only a federal basis, so that the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites do not suffer a similar fate.

    The idea of a free, united “”Iraq”” is a farce. If it is freedom and democratic ideals that President Bush aspires to, then his only option is to respect the cultural differences in “”Iraq”” and begin planning for a three-way division. If it is “”Iraq”” that Bush wants, then he should not be surprised to see a dictator once again in charge. Only this time, the “”strongman”” could well be the region’s most powerful nation: Iran.

    Evan Lisull is a sophomore majoring in economics and political science. He can be reached at

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