Iraq is in danger
of being split up into three autonomous states in 2008. According to the UN and
a Pentagon report, the country is on the verge of a civil war. In August and
September alone almost 7,000 Iraqis lost their lives due to sectarian violence
and clashes with the occupation forces.
Some 200,000 Iraqis
have been displaced, some having been forced out of their homes at gunpoint.
Others have been the recipients of envelopes containing a bullet and a message:
�Leave the area."
Hundreds of bodies
have been discovered with marks indicating they were tortured. Honor killings
among Sunnis and Shiites have increased. US President George W. Bush�s �New
Middle East� has evolved into his worst nightmare, though, naturally, he won�t
An ABC poll
suggests 75 percent of all Iraqis are united in one area. They support the
resistance. They want the foreign troops out. At the same time, the country�s
leaders hardly dare to venture beyond the fortified Green Zone, and are divided
over Iraq�s future.
The Kurds, in
particular, dream of an autonomous state that includes the oil-rich
multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk. This would entail protection of any such fledgling
state by Americans housed in four permanent bases as called for by Iraqi
President Jalal Talabani.
The Shiites are
split when it comes to discussions over their own autonomy. Abdul-Aziz
Al-Hakim, the leader of the SCIRI party and the Badr Brigades, has said he
would like to see an autonomous Shiite region made up of nine Shiite provinces.
This has been ruled out by the fiery cleric Moqtada Sadr, who heads the Mahdi
Army, because his following within and around Baghdad would be left outside any
such Shiite zone without the benefit of oil revenue.
Almost all Sunnis
are opposed to the break-up of Iraq preferring a strong federal government in
charge of the nation�s natural resources.
In the meantime,
the respected Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who until now has been a moderating
influence over his Shiite followers, is said to have retreated from politics
annoyed that his word is no longer considered law.
Shiites are reported to be moving away from the ayatollah�s patient sphere to
that of Al-Sadr, who is clear in his desire to see the 166,000 foreign soldiers
gone along with over 20,000 mercenaries and 100,000 private contractors.
In short, Iraq is
bloodied and divided. Even George W. Bush cannot spin it any other way in light
of a slew of intelligence reports suggesting the country has become a cause
c�l�bre for jihadists that is tipping toward civil war.
Minister Nouri Al-Malaki promised to quell the insurgency and keep Iraqis safe
but under his watch the violence has worsened. For all his good intentions and
his interminable curfews, he is unable to unite the disparate factions.
Many of his
problems stem from the fact that competing militias have infiltrated the
Ministry of the Interior, the Iraqi military and the police. He further faces a
daily balancing act between the good of his own people and having to kowtow to
US interests. In light of such complexity, foreign interference and competing
interests, what is to be done?
need a strong secular leader, a kinder and nobler version of Saddam Hussein or
former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, if you like. Such a paragon would need to
have the interests of all Iraqis at heart and must eschew sectarian bias.
Most of all he
should be somebody all Iraqis could trust to build a better future. Iraq needs
a man who is able to rally everyone around him, in the way that Sheikh Hassan
Nasrallah managed to do during the recent Israel-Lebanon conflict.
At the same time,
the Americans and their allies need to head home. Their very presence is as a
red flag to a bull. Anecdotal reports suggest that most Iraqis believe the
foreigners are purposefully igniting a civil war under cover of false flag
Invariably cited is
a 2004 incident when members of Britain�s elite SAS corps, dressed as Arabs,
fired upon Iraqi police manning a checkpoint in Basra.
They were duly
arrested and jailed when their car was found to be filled with explosives, only
to be busted out by British troops, who used tanks to break down the police
Whether there is
any truth in this theory is debatable, but judging from a paper written in 1982
by an Israeli journalist, with links to the Ministry of Information and various
neoconservative white papers, it�s likely that the break up of Iraq into three
once suited both American and Israeli interests.
But this may not be
so today. From the US point of view, Iraq�s break-up would have to be
contingent upon a defanged Iran, else any new Shiite state would likely align
itself with its increasingly powerful neighbor.
of a new Kurdish state would alienate Turkey, a NATO country that America needs
on its side due to its strategically important air bases.
If Bush�s wars had
gone to plan, then either a pacified Iraq ruled by a puppet government or a
weakened Iraq divided into three would have fit the bill. But, instead, Iraq
has become a magnet for extremists, a recruiting tool for terrorist groups
while its continued occupation elicits anti-Americanism throughout the region.
It�s clear that the
Bush administration has bitten off more than it can chew.
A report from the
British think tank, Chatham House, suggests the only country that has gained
from America�s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is Iran, since both the Taleban and
Saddam Hussein were Iran�s foes.
With its coffers
lighter to the tune of $370 billion and 2,700 of its soldiers having returned
home in body bags, what can America possibly gain by staying the course?
A new book, �State
of Denial,� by veteran journalist Bob Woodward of Watergate fame suggests
George Bush is deliberately keeping the truth about his failure in Iraq from
the American people and refuses to pull out even if �Laura and Barney (Bush�s
dog) are the only ones who support me."
propaganda is still effective. A CNN poll indicates that 38 percent of
Americans willfully ignore the facts and believe the war in Iraq is going
�moderately well� or even �very well."
It�s true that
Iraqis will require time to heal and put their differences behind them, but
that process will never get off the ground until all foreigners leave,
including foreign fighters. Iraqis lived in harmony before and God willing they
can do so again if given the chance.
Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on
Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.