Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Biden's Gambit

Biden must need some lessons in history. The division of a country to avoid civil war just doesn't work. In fact his contention that the Dayton accords solved an issue by sub-dividing the country is questionable at best. The majority of Yugoslavia had already divided into separate states starting in 1991 and leading to the Bosnian war. Ethnic cleansing occurred in this time frame.
A decade ago, Bosnia was torn apart by ethnic cleansing and facing its demise as a single country. After much hesitation, the United States stepped in decisively with the Dayton Accords,which kept the country whole by, paradoxically, dividing it into ethnic federations, even allowing Muslims, Croats and Serbs to retain separate armies. With the help of American and other forces, Bosnians have lived a decade in relative peace and are now slowly strengthening their common central government, including disbanding those separate armies last year.
The Dayton accords merely made clear agreements on where borders would be set, especially in the most contended areas that Croatia and Serbia had been fighting over. There also was no large foriegn military presence maintaining control in the country.

Iraq and Yugoslavia both have the similarity of being artificially aligned countries of multiple ethnic groups. The strong central government control led to dispersion or mixing of ethnic groups which would have happened to a much lesser extent if they had been left to their own devises. When the strong central control was removed the violence began. I would contend that setting artificial boundaries between ethnic groups will escalate violence as minority groups are forced out of the declared ethnic regions.

Here is Biden's five step program:
The first is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.
The central federalist government is in place and controlling the security as described. Then with the clear cut boundaries, the low level ethnic/sectarian violence will begin. The ethnic cleansing would easily coalesce in each region and the leaders of those regions will be from the ethnic majority and will not likely have any reason to curtail it.
The second element would be to entice the Sunnis into joining the federal system with an offer they couldn't refuse. To begin with, running their own region should be far preferable to the alternatives: being dominated by Kurds and Shiites in a central government or being the main victims of a civil war. But they also have to be given money to make their oil-poor region viable. The Constitution must be amended to guarantee Sunni areas 20 percent (approximately their proportion of the population) of all revenues.

I fail to see any benefit to the Kurds or Shiites in helping the Sunni region. It may start that way, but I would conjecture that the fighting would start over what is their rightful portion of the oil revenues.

The third component would be to ensure the protection of the rights of women and ethno-religious minorities by increasing American aid to Iraq but tying it to respect for those rights. Such protections will be difficult, especially in the Shiite-controlled south, but Washington has to be clear that widespread violations will stop the cash flow.

And with firm control of the oil revenues the Shiite region really would have no incentive to play by Washinton's play book. This will be especially true if the Shiite region moves toward a theocracy.

Fourth, the president must direct the military to design a plan for withdrawing and redeploying our troops from Iraq by 2008 (while providing for a small but effective residual force to combat terrorists and keep the neighbors honest). We must avoid a precipitous withdrawal that would lead to a national meltdown , but we also can't have a substantial long-term American military presence. That would do terrible damage to our armed forces, break American and Iraqi public support for the mission and leave Iraqis without any incentive to shape up.

I'm going to be that this plan already exists, but isn't tied to an artificial date of withdrawal. Rather it is likely attached to a level of stability and structural change that is defined somehow. I won't even guess as to what that is.

Fifth, under an international or United Nations umbrella, we should convene a regional conference to pledge respect for Iraq's borders and its federal system. For all that Iraq's neighbors might gain by picking at its pieces, each faces the greater danger of a regional war. A "contact group" of major powers would be set up to lean on neighbors to comply with the deal.

Yeah, that's clever. A UN resolution that has nothing to back it and nothing to support it. Pretty much what always comes out of the UN, and a complete waste of time. Iraq will have to stand on its own feet and control it's interactions. Can Biden honestly believe that Iran isn't going to tamper in the region?

The present state structure at least affords for some balance in regions that have balanced ethnic diversity. They may not get along well, but they are getting along. The majority of the violence is still seen in the Baghdad region and the Sunni triangle.

As to Biden's contention of increasing violence, I don't see it. In fact in the past month or more the "civil war" has become much quieter. It could very well escalate again, but giving the ethnic/sectarian groups a defined boundary will only make matters worse.

How does this address Turkey's concerns with the creation of a Kurdistan? Now the policy would be to establish such a region that they have clearly indicated that they would not tolerate. This article by the World Peace Herald comes straight to this point.
Also, partitioning Iraq may well make the United States far more enemies than friends in the Middle East. Partition would mean giving effective independence to the roughly five million Kurds in northern Iraq. But this idea is anathema to neighboring Iran and Turkey, nations that both have large Kurdish minorities.

Relations between Turkey and the Kurds are particularly fraught. At least 30,000 people were killed through the 1990s in n uprising across the Kurdish-populated regions of eastern Turkey. Although Turkey is a member of NATO and traditionally one of America's most loyal and powerful allies in the region, relations have deteriorated in recent years. The Turks are especially incensed at U.S. support of the Kurds in Iraq. And there is widespread popular anger in Turkey over threats to the Turkoman minority in northern Iraq from local Kurdish militias.
They also discuss the terrorist situation. The Sunni region which now contains the majority of foriegn jihadi would likely become the central control site for them.
Also, partitioning Iraq, Cordesman argued, could be tantamount to giving the most fierce anti-American and anti-Western Islamists permanent control of the Sunni Muslim minority in central Iraq. The Sunni Muslim-majority regions of Iraq have no oil of their own and are landlocked. They would be isolated impoverished and bitter if a three-way partition is imposed. "Neo-Salafi Sunni Islamist extremist groups with ties to Al Qaida already have come to dominate the Sunni insurgents. If Iraq divides, either they will dominate the Iraqi Arab Sunnis, or Arab Sunni states like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia will be forced to do so," Cordesman wrote.
Please read the article in its entirety, it makes a very strong case against the proposal.

The MSM has also been playing the failure game with the most recent report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Funny how you get a whole page of bad news before there is any mention of any good news. In fact most analysis that I've viewed by the likes of the BoGlobe seem to only speak to the bad and have to quote the Inspector General on the successes. Big shock there.

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