Iraq is Partitioning Itself

Storybushmaliki "President Bush expressed unwavering confidence in Nouri al-Maliki’s ability to clamp down on the sectarian violence. Yet continued instability and rising casualties have led to calls, growing louder as the Nov. 7 elections near, for Bush to overhaul his war plan."  Boston Globe


Nuri al-Maliki is merely one of the actors in the political drama now being played out in Iraq.  The "constitution" of Iraq, the election, the purple thumbs, al-Maliki…  All of that is just baloney.  The real political process lies in the struggle for power and resources that is being waged more or less in the open now among and between the many different and differing insurgent groups (Sunni Arabs) and the Shia factions who are fighting the Sunnis and each other to see which will be the biggest "players" in whatever part of the former Iraqi state the Shia Arabs manage to retain some control in.   Ah, which will be the recipients of Iranian favor and largesse and protection?  Surely, the Iraqi Shia Arabs have noticed that Iran has opened its purse to the Lebanese "brothers" for re-construction and political purposes.

I have always (since Desert Storm) been against the partition of Iraq.  I remain opposed to that future for the region.  1- Partition inevitably will create havens for anti-American activity in some parts of the country, 2- Partition may lead to a general war in the region among contestants for dominance over resulting parts of what had been a country. 3- The Shia Arab state of "Iraq" will be an ally of Iran.

Nevertheless, one must face the fact that Iraq is falling to bits, and we have very little power to stop that or affect the division of the "spoils" that is coming.

President Bush can sit in his "bunker" in the basement of the West Wing and lecture his generals and functionaries until the end of days and that represents NOTHING in the real world of armed political struggle in Mesopotamia.  He can lecture Al-Maliki every day and it will affect nothing.  Why?  It is because al-Maliki is just another Shia contender for power.  He is head of the Iraqi government in name only.

Historians eventually will work this out.  By then it will all be long over.

Pat Lang

This entry was posted in Current Affairs. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Iraq is Partitioning Itself

  1. MarcLord says:

    “Nevertheless, one must face the fact that Iraq is falling to bits, and we have very little power to stop that or affect the division of the “spoils” that is coming.”
    No, we don’t have to face the fact. We can turn our backs, cover our ears and say “la-la-la-la-la.”
    I’m sure you saw that Tony Snow banged his forehead on the podium at a presser the other day. He had trouble clarifying the word “strategy.” Does that qualify as starting to crack?

  2. Frank Durkee says:

    I have been from the run up to this war curious about the hope for an Iraqui state. Given the autonomy the Kurds had at that time,not to speak of how much it has increased since then, and how badly we messed over them under Nixon, it has been hard for me to see them agreeing to reduce their autonomy much less give it up. So it would seem that we started with an Iraq which was functionally partioned, in part by our efforts, before the war began. Once the Sunni’s began to fight it should have been clear that the idea of a unified Iraq was looking increasingly dim. We ignored facts on the ground and held to a policy that has rendered tose facts more rather than less likely to be th outcome.
    for me this comes down to the advice that one of my mentors in the 60’s on organizing in black ghettos “There are some allys you don’t have to walk down.” If the 1%Doctrine of Cheney is in fact our basic stance then we are committed to walk down every ally and there are more of them than we have the capacity to walk down.

  3. McGee says:

    “President Bush can sit in his “bunker” in the basement of the West Wing and lecture his generals and functionaries until the end of days…”
    Colonel – to build on what I think might be an allusion to the movie Downfall here (all in good, mean-spirited fun of course) – I’d suggest that General Peter Pace appear briefly in the final scene of our film as Lakaitel, Karl Rove of course be typecast as our Minister of Propoganda Goebbels, Condoleezza Rice (for the final performance only) play Eva Braun, and that the intellectual architect of our little psycho-drama, Paul Wolfowitz, abandon the bunker in the end, perfetly recreating his oscar-winning portrayal of Albert Speer….
    Donald Rumsfeld would make a lousy Himmler though, and I’m not sure if even this crew had anyone with quite the makeup our current Vice President.

  4. arbogast says:

    Though I believe that reasoning about the partitioning of Iraq must be couched in terms relevant to the modern day, I am struck by how bizarre was the creation of Iraq in the beginning of the 20th century.
    Iraq was created by the British. And not simply by any British. It was essentially created by Gertrude Bell, an Oxford Don who managed to impose her views on the British Government.
    Bell’s entry in Wikipedia, which I believe is essentially accurate, is not flattering.
    She was against women’s suffrage. She trained Jack Philby in espionage, a skill that he subsequently used to betray his country.
    And she specifically envisioned an Iraq ruled by a Sunni minority, fearing that the Shiites were too fanatic to control the oil fields. So much for Democracy.
    “Iraq” is a British fiction. A powerful fiction, but a fiction nevertheless.

  5. Michael says:

    I must admit that this entire process has been quite a lesson for me – it started with me scratching my head when President Bush first dicussed Iraq and 9/11 in the same breath – (I can remember looking at the tv and saying, “whaaat?”)- to his most recent comments that the US’s strategy in Iraq has never been ‘Stay the course’. Never? Really?
    Everything about this conflict is wrong and yet to my absolute amazement the silent majority just shrugs it all off and goes on its merry way.
    At this point I find myself pretty cynical, and as such doubt there will be any sweeping change in the senate.
    Col. Lang you are right, historians will indeed have a lot to say about these last few years. Unfortunately I think once everything is all said and done, the “Bush 43” years will be remembered as an extremely dark period of US history.

  6. Ian Whitchurch says:

    To be fair, it wasnt Jack Philby who was the traitor, but his son Kim.
    Unless you count helping Saudi Arabia kick-start their oil industry treason, of course.
    Ian Whitchurch
    PS National fictions have a way of becoming real. Switzerland and Belgium are the two countries that come to mind.

  7. pbrownlee says:

    Jack Philby did not “betray” his country — unless you count helping his son Kim’s career in MI6 or his work with ARAMCO or Zionist pioneers.
    Gertrude Bell was not a twit (some of the world’s current crop of the Great and Good might have usefully studies her career) and I submit it was not democracy but theocracy that she was against since she said so — “I don’t for a moment doubt that the final authority must be in the hands of the Sunnis, in spite of their numerical inferiority; otherwise you will have a … theocratic state, which is the very devil”.
    (The Anti-Suffrage League is complicated since they only opposed votes for wopmen in national elections — and if you dip your toe in the Free Republic quagmire right now, you will find at least three active threads on repealing votes for women.)
    “I think there has seldom been such a series of hopeless blunders as the West has made about the East since the armistice.” So (Bell) wrote from the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. The story of Britain’s promises of self-determination for the Arabs in return for their co-operation against the Turks is well-known — as is their betrayal by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which parcelled them into “mandates” to be shared between Western powers…
    “Like it or not, Iraq fell to the British share, and Gertrude Bell, who had already been working in Basra and Baghdad as Oriental secretary since 1916, liked it enough to feel passionately that this was a magnificent opportunity. London was thinking of Iraqi oil, but to her it was old-fashioned public service: “nowhere in this war-shattered universe”, she wrote, “can we begin more speedily to make good the immense losses sustained by humanity”…
    “Institution building was a matter of personal relations. She spoke to everyone: farmers, merchants, clerics, princes. ‘One catches hold of people,’ she wrote. ‘It’s so intimate…It’s the making of a new world.’ When she died, in Baghdad in 1926, it was reported that the whole city, together with Islamic leaders and desert sheikhs, turned out to follow her coffin.”
    Bell also concluded towards the end of her career “You may rely upon one thing — I’ll never engage in creating kings again; it’s too great a strain”.
    Bell’s papers are online at

  8. Kevin says:

    This is how you deny to the whole world that you are intentionally…… (psssst…Iran is digging their own grave)
    Just shrug your shoulders and grin 😉

  9. Will says:

    I have, alas, been reading the NeoKon but enteraining Asia Times columnist Spengler, (No first name)
    He makes the point the partition may be against our objectives by not against our INTERESTS.
    if you all recall al-Maliki was not the first choice of Shiites for Prime Minister. The first one was vetoed by the Kurds because of his position on Kirkuk. His position, supported by, Moqtadr-al-Sadr was basically anti-partition for Kirkuk but now SECOND choice rules.
    As I posted in Follies, the NeoKons aren’t worried about Irak Shiia being allied with Iran as they ALSO plan to BREAK UP multi-ethnic IRAN along its fault lines.
    That’s why there’s three carrier groups in Gulf. They”ll be more in area after election.
    Spangler posits that Iran will run out of petrol by 2020, has a greying population and is trying to set up its empire now. (I’ve read to the contrary that it’s sitting on huge methane reserves). He says war now is better than later.
    As a Xtian, I have a hard time with NeoKon philosophy and values.
    Best Wishes

  10. clif says:

    The President and Rumsfeld produced ineffectual plays and are doing a kabuki dance, on the sidelines for the press. While the players on the field have to deal with an offense from the enemy which does not accept our rules, and is playing to WIN, not just an election either.
    And the enemy will do what ever it takes to win, in manpower, not setting some arbitrary level of troops. Or like waving purple fingers in the air, which in the game of control mean NOTHING if the purple fingers lead to ineffectual leadership which HIDES inside the green zone.
    And no amount of presidential spokesman’s disinformation or angry press conferences of the president will change that ONE bit. Sound bites might win elections, they never win wars. So the rebublicans use sound bites and the enemy uses the tactics which worked against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan.
    Not only has the President and Rumsfeld failed to heed the lessons of Vietnam we were supposed to have learned. They have ignored the lessons our military supposedly took away from the Soviets defeat in Afghanistan.
    As the republicans thrash and rail against their looming election losses, they have a much bigger problem looming on their horizons. They have failed MUCH worse in their “war on terra”, in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And that failure and loss will not just cost them an election, but ALL OF US.

  11. tregen says:

    A bit off the subject but the press seems to interpret any soldier in Iraq who is capture as having been kidnapped. In my humble opinion this dishonors our soldiers tremendously and while the propoganda effect at home may be nice the end result is demeaning.
    If a US soldier in Iraq is “kidnapped” then what are all of the people we have “detained” on the battlefield in Iraq? Your thoughts would be welcome. I am more than prepared to admit I am way off, it’s just the way it seems to me.

  12. McGee says:

    Jack Philby (St. John Philby) was not a traitor in the normally accepted sense of the word – you’re probably referring to his son, the Soviet double-agent Kim Philby. St John never formally betrayed England, but did disagree with British policy in the MidEast which favored the Hashemite dynasty over the House of Ibn Saud. Philby, as opposed to T.E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell and the rest of the British Arabists, was a strong proponent of the House of Saud. He spent his later years as a close adviser to the Saudi royal family, was responsible for the initial exploration of the first oil fields there, negotiated the exclusive contract between the Saudi’s and Standard Oil of California, and represented Saudi interests in setting up what eventally became ARAMCO (the Arab American Oil Co.).

  13. wtofd says:

    McGee, perfect. Who plays Heydrich? Perle?

  14. Mac Nayeri says:

    In whose interests is partition? D.C.’s? Tehran’s? Tel Aviv’s? All three? None of the above?
    Time will tell.
    I say partition Iraq and Richard Haas maybe correct – the American era in the Middle East is, for now, over.

  15. zanzibar says:

    “one must face the fact that Iraq is falling to bits, and we have very little power to stop that or affect the division of the “spoils” that is coming.” -PL
    More confirmation. Anthony Shadid In a Land Without Order
    A division of Iraq is sometimes offered as a way to end the country’s sectarian strife, but that glosses over the bitter and bloody fights that torment Basra and other predominantly Shiite regions in the south. With fewer sectarian fault lines, there is less killing in Basra than in Baghdad; residents, a little bitterly, insist it is just more organized, as the various Shiite factions battle for money and power. And the sheik, now more than ever, finds himself buffeted by the building squall.
    “Who knows?” he asked again, almost rhetorically.
    “These days, life is like a jungle. A rabbit doesn’t survive in a jungle. Only a lion does.”
    He turned more literal. Anarchy, the sheik said. “Actually, it’s a little worse than anarchy.”

    Into the Abyss of Baghdad
    “It’s like a ghost city,” laments Fatima Omar, a resident of the Amariya district, which once abounded with street life. She is 22, a recent graduate of Baghdad University, an English major — and, like many of her generation, unsure of what future she can expect. “So many of our men are either dead or have gone away,” she says. “We may be doomed to spinsterhood.”
    People are here one day, gone the next. Those who do go out often venture no farther than familiar streets. In the sinister evenings, when death squads roam, people block off their lanes with barbed wire, logs, bricks to ward off the killers.
    Many residents remain in their homes — paralyzed, going slowly crazy.

    Age-Old Ties Destroyed in a Second
    “The people of Balad should not kill the Sunnis who are among them,” said one slightly built Shiite man, fleeing his home on the outskirts of Balad. He and 13 women and children of his family were crammed into a single, battered Toyota sedan, stranded by a flat tire near the highway turnoff to the city. “Our relations are not of months or years. It’s since the beginning of time,” he said. “This relationship has been destroyed in a second.”
    There’s no easy recovery from this anarchy. The aftermath could be horrendous for us as so many Iraqis will hate us for the “killing fields” we unleashed.

  16. arbogast says:

    Phew. Do I stand corrected!
    However, it is not clear to me (and I believe the commenters wished to convey this) who was more evil, the father or the son. With a father like that, betrayal might seem natural.
    On the other hand, Iraq is a fiction. Pro hominum arguments concerning Gertrude Bell are a red herring. We are currently dealing with colonial fantasies, the most recent being those of the United States.
    On the other hand, would I prefer to have Gertrude Bell in the White House? Yes. She was far closer to reality than the boy moron.

  17. McGee says:

    Good point…I’d overlooked Reinhard Heydrich as he never made it to the bunker (died in ’42). If he had survived and continued in character I’m not sure even Richard Perle would be nasty enough to have played him properly – might have been the perfect role for our current VP though, don’t you think?
    As stated earlier, this is all meant as good, clean mean-spirited fun!

  18. Alex says:

    Wtofd, if he was playing Heydrich he’d already be dead.

  19. johnf says:

    Those Philby’s sorted out at last. (Though Gertrude, who was never an Oxford don, might have been Guy Burgess in drag).
    But to be fair to her, she wasn’t like the bargain basement imperialists like AT Wilson who wanted to grab Southern Iraq alone for its oil. She had a genuine love of the place and, with Lawrence, wanted at Versailles to have a model Wilsonian democracy in the Middle East, where Arabs would rule themselves like Englishmen. The creation of the country of Iraq was only her fallback position, after the French seized Syria.
    And she did know the place, after years of plumping her arse on a camel and riding endlessly around. Her 1916 compendium on the Iraqi tribal systems was something which Bremer had to turn back on when all else failed.

  20. Kevin says:

    I remember my first night in Kuwait, inprocessing before heading downrange. One of the officers in our unit (who happened to be a political science professor) conspicuously pointed to an unclassified map in the hallway labeling “The Arabian Gulf”. I never thought much of that until now. Maybe this was planned to happen 😉

  21. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There has never been nor ever will be an Arabian Gulf. The historic name has been the Persian Gulf. If some Arabs do not like it they can go and buy themselves a gulf somewhere else and call it the “Arabian Gulf”.
    This has been going on for at least 40 years.

  22. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Most of us outsiders say “the Gulf” to avoid getting caught up in this argument. pl

  23. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The world has changed since WWI. The Arab people have changed. They are no longer the poor, hungry, illiterate people in 1914.
    These are the best-fed, best-educated, and most aware generation of the Arab people that ever existed.
    They cannot be so easily manipulated as in 1918. Those days are over.

  24. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    I do not see any issue with Iraq (or a rump Shia Iraq) being a friend of Iran.
    Historically, Iran has been surrounded by enemies. As of this writing, Armenia is the only neighbor of Iran that is also its friend.
    Also this: Sunni Arabs have a problem with Shia. If Shia are strong enough that they cannot be eliminated then that may induce Sunnis from such foolish attempts.

  25. Will says:

    We have a lot to learn about Shia Islam and the Jurisprudence of the Guardians. How many know that the theocracy of Iran has a state owned condom factory, family planning, and a 1.2% birth rate?
    Yet the Holy See which implied that Islam is backwards and not rational (harmonious with Greek thought) still prohibits the use of condoms and all birth control methods except the rhythm method.,,1929364,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1
    Best Wishes

  26. wtofd says:

    McGee, Alex, noted about Heydrich’s (not) early (enough) death. I was thinking of somebody instrumental in the planning stage who ducked out before the job was finished. Wannsee = Def. Pol. Board Adv. Comm.
    Perhaps who should be focused on who ends up with the role of Eichmann?

  27. W. Patrick Lang says:

    From the US point of view a balance of power at the head of the Gulf was a preferable situation, but, that was then.
    Now we should learn how to deal with a changed reality. pl

  28. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    Balanc of Power never works – Peace Interest is what is needed – in my opinion.
    Europe, before 194, experienced almost 100 years of peace since there was a systemic peace interest. It was only when that peace interest dissolved around 1900 that war became a possibility again – in my opinion.

  29. will says:

    Foley as Rohm was sweet! I would cast Newt as the zookeeper.
    Yes, three carrier groups are in the Gulf. Details below. In a shooting war, they could launch their cruise missles and jets in the Arabian Sea outside of harm’s way so the location doesn’t make sense, ??????
    Best Wishes
    Three US naval task forces are currently in place opposite Iran in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, including the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, the USS Enterprise Strike Group and the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group. The latter consists of the amphibious transport dock USS Nashville, the guided-missile destroyers USS Cole (Yes the Cole) and USS Bulkeley, the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea, the attack submarine USS Albuquerque, and the dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island

  30. McGee says:

    wtold – Eichmann? Thankfully we don’t have anyone here for that role, but Gonzales, Addington and Yoo seem to share Carl Schmitt’s theories on sovereignity, which were the justification for Eichmann and others’ unhinged devotion to the Fuehrerprinzip.
    Subkdr Dred – Gingrich might be perfect for the part of an intellectualized Julius Streicher….?

  31. Eric Dönges says:

    what are you talking about ? There where plenty of wars in Europe in the 100 years preceeding 1914. Without bothering to look anything up, I can recall, from the top of my head, the Prussian-Danish war in the 1860s (1865 ?), the Prussian-Austrian war in 1866, the German-French war in 1870-1871, the war for Italian unification (also 1870 I believe). Apart from that, I believe there was at least one war in the Balkans, and I would include the Crimean war as an European war as well. And let’s not forget that in 1814, Europe had just fought the Napoleonic wars.
    Europe has historically been one of the most violent places on earth, because since Roman times there has never been an European hegemon that could dictate its peace on the continent. In my opinion, the only reason we’ve had relative peace since the end of WWII (apart from the civil war in the former Yugoslavia and various Soviet interventions in Eastern Europe) is because war between technically advanced nations is collective suicide in an age of nuclear weapons.
    And while I agree with you that “balance of power” doesn’t really work in the long run because this balance has the unfortunate tendency to shift, the first real “peace interest” I see in Europe was after WWII, manifested in the Treaty of Rome in 1956, which lead to the European Union (one of the design goals of the Treaty of Rome was to make the economies of the signatories interpendent on each other to such a degree as to make war economically impossible – seen from this perspective, the EU has been a spectacular success).

  32. Different Clue says:

    Since antiquity the mapmaking powers who were
    aware of that Gulf called it
    the Persian Gulf, or the
    equivalent thereof in their
    own language. The Arab Peoples would like us to call it the Arabian Gulf.
    I once asked a Turkish
    aquaintance what the Turks
    called it? He said: “We
    call it Basra Sirte–Gulf
    of Basra.”
    So how about this:
    Persiarabian Gulf of Basra.

  33. zanzibar says:

    “I do not see any issue with Iraq (or a rump Shia Iraq) being a friend of Iran.” -Babak
    In a perfect world people would treat each other with respect and understanding. And negotiate interests. Its when “might is right” is the primary maxim that temporary benefits outweigh longer term value. I suppose its human nature to take advantage of a weakness in the other. Conflicts for power and resource have existed for millenia. The question is will it continue for another millenia or will the human race evolve beyond that?

  34. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Eric Dönges:
    Thank you for your information.
    I was some what cavalier in my definition of a European War – I meant a Europe-wide war that would last months and years like the Napoleonic Wars or WWI and WWII.
    Most of the wars you mentioned were wars of German Unification and the Italian Unification. And Crimea is not part of Europe.
    But I concede your point – my point was that there were no major wars between 1812 to 1914 that sucked in major European powers simultaneously.

  35. Freeman says:

    For info please, what do you mean by “a 1.2% birth rate”?

  36. Kevin says:

    “Most of us outsiders say “the Gulf” to avoid getting caught up in this argument. pl”
    Why not stoke the flames?

  37. McGee says:

    Will – are you sure that there are now three US Naval Task Forces in the Gulf? Have read this in lots of places but have yet to see any properly sourced reports confirming. Things I’ve heard indicate they might not be there yet.

  38. Eric Dönges says:

    sorry to be so contrary, but the Crimea is definitely a part of Europe, at least geographically. According to Wikipedia:
    “Europe is bounded to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by the Mediterranean Sea, and to the southeast by the waterways adjoining the Mediterranean to and including the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains (in Caucasia). On the east, Europe is divided from Asia by the water divide of the Ural Mountains and by the Caspian Sea.”
    Since Wikipedia is not necessarily the fount of all knowledge, I decided to consult a second source (my old geography textbook from school) – it also considers the Crimea a part of Europe.
    To get back to your original point, while you are correct that there was no war involving all the great powers simultaneously between 1814 and 1914, I think that was due to balance of power, not a “peace interest” in Europe, which I still claim did not really exists (at least not in the minds of those that mattered, i.e. the high and mighty) prior to the end of WWII.
    And to get back on topic, I fear what we will see in Iraq is the three groups fighting it out until they’re completely exhausted (compare with the 30 years war in Europe). The best the rest of the world can probably do is to not give any support to any of the parties involved in the hope that the point of exhaustion will come sooner rather than later. However, since common sense seems to be in short supply not only in the U.S., I fear the slaughter is going to go on for a long time.

Comments are closed.