Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Splitting Up Iraq A Good Idea?

Iraq was never a country until the Brits and French sat down and divvied up the spoils after World War One. It had been part of the Ottoman Empire for some years, but even before then, there was no “nation” there. There were, however, oil seeps… Tribes, villages, clans, nomads, empires had come and gone through the region, through the ages.

One thing that did happen, though, was that after a few years of occupation by the English, the “Iraqis” decided they didn’t like the situation and went into rebellion. They inflicted heavy casualties on the Brits. They eventually threw out their occupiers… But, it isn’t like there was ever a sense of national cohesion. Splitting the country up into semi-autonomous (but for how long will they remain “semi-autonomous”?) regions seems realistic. The Kurds are not Arabs; the Sunnis and the Shi’a have fought for centuries—even longer than various Christian sects have tried to kill off each other.

This may be a good thing—for now. It seems to me that may be all we can hope for: just ease things up, somewhat. Maybe. We hope...

Parliament Approves Measure Allowing Autonomous Regions

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 12, 2006; A21

BAGHDAD, Oct. 11 -- Parliament on Wednesday approved a controversial law that will allow Iraq to be carved into a federation of autonomous regions, after Sunni Arabs and some Shiite Muslims stormed out of the session in protest.

The bill passed the 275-member parliament by a vote of 141 to 0, despite a nearly successful attempt by opponents to prevent a quorum by walking out, said Mohanned Abdul Jabbar, an aide to parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani.

The measure, introduced by a powerful Shiite group last month, creates a mechanism that many believe will lead to a predominantly Shiite zone in southern Iraq that would parallel the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north. Sunnis vehemently oppose such a division, which would leave them with an area in central Iraq that lacks the vast oil wealth of the north and south.

Under a compromise worked out two weeks ago, the bill includes a provision that prevents the formation of federal regions for 18 months. In exchange for that delay and the creation of a panel to review the constitution, the Sunnis agreed to call off a boycott that had prevented the federalism bill from being introduced.

Although the principle of federalism is enshrined in the constitution, the law passed by parliament is the first to set up a system that will allow provinces in 2008 to merge into autonomous regions.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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