Juan Weighs In On Partitioning

If you haven’t followed Juan Cole, his commentary is incisive and he reads Arabic. Makes for interesting reading about all topics Middle Eastern. I find this op-ed useful for the fact he comments about both the Texas and Washington Senate races. This Ragaroo was born and raised in Austin and now lives in Port Angeles. Richard Jehn

Breaking Iraq apart
PARTITIONING IRAQ MAY SOUND LIKE AN EXIT STRATEGY. BUT IT IGNORES THE REALITIES OF THE MIDDLE EAST.

By Juan Cole

An emerging issue has made its way into the U.S. election campaign in recent weeks: the possibility of partitioning Iraq as a way out of the deepening quagmire there.

Politicians of both parties have increasingly cited the idea of dividing Iraq into three distinct entities — Shiite, Sunni Arab, and Kurd — as an option that should be seriously considered. For some Republicans, it has become a way to separate themselves from President Bush’s unpopular Iraq policy; for some Democrats, it has been a way to avoid the “cut and run” label and suggest an alternative to the current course.

But few of these candidates seem attuned to the dangerous shoals of religion, national identity and geopolitics in the area, on which the United States and its regional allies could well founder.

In Washington state last week, Mike McGavick, the Republican running for the U.S. Senate who trails badly in the polls, aired a new campaign ad that stated, “President Bush isn’t getting our frustrations — partition the country if we have to, and get our troops home in victory.” Since 60 percent of Washington voters disapprove of President Bush’s handling of the war, and a majority want U.S. troops out of Iraq yesterday, McGavick’s decision to buck his own party’s leadership, which has stayed relentlessly on point on this issue, may not be totally surprising.

But even Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, who is a shoo-in for re-election, has begun talking about partitioning Iraq, arguing that Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Shiites should be able to govern themselves while sharing in Iraq’s oil revenues, though she fails to mention that the Sunni Arab region has no oil. “Yes, it would be hard to do,” she told the Texas press, “but it would be worth trying. People say, `Well, that would balkanize the country.’ Well, things are pretty stable in the Balkans right now. It’s looking better than Iraq.”

Read the rest of this op-ed here.

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