Politics & Policies: Divide Iraq?

By CLAUDE SALHANI, UPI International Editor

WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) -- The reality in Iraq today does not paint a pretty picture. In the end, much as the United States and its allies are trying to build a new Iraq, partition into three autonomous regions may be the key to pacifying the country.

Daily suicide attacks, car bombings and shootings. Regular raids targeting Iraqi security officers and police stations, killing would-be policemen faster than they can be trained. Almost hourly attacks against U.S. military personnel, who now for the most part are bunkering down hoping to avoid more casualties. By one count, attacks against U.S. forces have reached nearly 60 a day.


Anyone of influence who does not enjoy the protection of a regiment of men armed to the teeth, but more importantly, who might fetch a ransom preferably in U.S. dollars, risks kidnapping. The few remaining Westerners still brave or foolish enough to remain in the country risk beheading by fanatical Islamist rebels.


The daily death toll -- 61 today, 45 yesterday, maybe another 30 tomorrow has stopped having any meaning. People seemed to have gone numb on the whole concept of civilians dying, dozens at a time. Sometimes more.

We in the media, report the casualty tolls almost with nonchalance, with the easiness of a traffic reporter calling in a tie-up on the Washington Beltway. The numbers have stopped having meaning, of course, except for the victims and their families.

The war, despite declarations that it is over, refuses to stop.

And images of flag-draped coffins back in the United States -- in spite of the Bush administration's desire they not be shown -- are starting to be seen.

According to the Pentagon, 1,607 U.S. service personnel have been killed since the commencement of hostilities in Iraq until May 10.

Iraqi civilians have suffered even more. According to the London-based, an independent non-governmental organization, between 21,521 and 24,398 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the start of the U.S. offensive.

Meanwhile, as the carnage -- usually of civilians caught in the madness of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his followers - continues, the U.S. military has mounted a new major operation on suspected terrorist strongholds in al-Anbar province, west of Baghdad, and close to the Syrian frontier.


This is the largest military operation in Iraq conducted by U.S. forces since the raids on Fallujah last year. U.S. Marines who are engaged in the battle report killing at least 100 insurgents. The Marines have also taken casualties.

A force of about 1,000 Marines from the 2nd Marine Division is engaged in the fighting, now raging for a third day.

As though defying the American assault on their positions, rebels kidnapped the region's governor, Raja Nawaf Farhan, demanding the immediate withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq.

That is not likely to happen anytime soon. We warned you it's not a pretty picture.

Meanwhile, the new Iraqi government led by Ibrahim al-Jaafari, upon which high hopes that he and his new government would begin to assume greater responsibility in security matters, appears to be treading water. Jaafari has been unable to finalize a working cabinet acceptable to all sides of this delicate medley of deep sectarian division.

Jaafari, a Shiite, has been engaged in bazaar-like haggling with Sunni Muslims and Kurds, but principally with Sunnis, over which community gets which ministry. At stake are particularly the "big" portfolios -- oil, interior and defense. Analysts believe the United States has been applying discreet pressure to ensure the defense ministry goes to a candidate acceptable to the Bush administration.


As stagnation sets in, the "P" word begins to pop-up -- partition, that is.

Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, just back from a 10-day tour of Iraq during which he met with Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, reiterated his belief Tuesday on National Public Radio that the reality on the ground -- the notion of Iraq as one country -- "just does not square with the realities out there now, with the history of that country, or what you hear from Iraqis themselves."

Gelb proposes instead "three states as part of a confederation with a great deal of autonomy for each of those states with a central government in Baghdad with limited powers."

Gelb firmly believes Iraq would be better off as three autonomous regions with Kurds in the north, Shiites in the south and Sunnis controlling the center. He sees this coming about "either as the result of negotiations, or civil war."

"Logic," said Gelb, "will take them there."

Regardless, a federation, confederation or other form of government, where each of the regions would enjoy limited or full autonomy, will not solve Iraq's immediate problem with terrorism, which is claiming more lives daily.


Until logic sets in, it remains an ugly picture.


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