Once again, US Vice President Joe Biden returned to talk about the possibility of dividing Iraq into three federal states—Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish. As a man advances in age and his career, one would expect him to become wiser and more knowledgeable, not the opposite.
Mr. Biden, however, remains stuck in the same circle of errors and fantasies he was in before taking up the post of vice president. Despite the fact that Iraq represents a major concern for the US administration, the conduct and statements of senior officials continue to indicate that Washington just doesn’t understand the situation in the country. This, however, is not even the main problem. The biggest problem lies in the fact that many Iraqi politicians have become mired in a culture of interdependence; this is exactly the oppose of what is required today and will only lead to backwardness.
I previously wrote about the dangers of partition and federalism, and I can only hope that America’s politicians have learned the lessons of the past and will stop interfering in the future of Iraq. Otherwise, they could ignite a fire that could consume the entire region.
Americans must also avoid any direct military intervention using ground forces in Iraq. They must take care not to find themselves embroiled in another large-scale conflict that they are, financially and politically, unprepared for. This is something that could also cause untold damage.
The Iraqi people are capable—if they are spared American interference—of defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and those who are conspiring with them. They do not need any outside support or assistance to achieve this objective, especially after they politically put their house in order and militarily equip their troops for the coming battle.
When I talk about federalism, let me clarify that the Kurds remain outside the equation, particularly as they have planned their path and are enjoying something that goes far beyond this concept. Iraq’s Kurds enjoy significant financial resources and a share of major cabinet posts, while at the same time they are not sharing information and intelligence with the central government about their own security and affairs.
If Iraq’s Kurds have the right to reject plans to divide the Kurdistan Region into sub-regions, then Iraqis have the right to protest against and reject this culture of regionalization and the partition of Iraq. This is a view that contradicts the moderate stances championed by former Iraqi president—and leading Kurdish figure—Jalal Talabani.
However, it is not just the Kurds who are promoting this culture. Many unassuming Sunni youth view regionalism and federalism as an escape from a rule that has been described by some media outlets as Shi’ite hegemony. At the same time, many Sunni politicians have become rich over the past years, moving around Baghdad freely and without hassle.
However, these gullible Sunni youths do not realize the massive risks that accompany regionalization. For example, it would be impossible for Baghdad or Diyala’s Sunnis to be included in any putative Sunni federal region.
The story of Samarra is even more complicated. This city had been a part of the Baghdad governorate until 1975 when the Salah Al-Din governorate was established. There is also a prominent Shi’ite community in the towns of Balad and Dujail. A number of prominent Shi’ite imams are buried in the town itself, while the Samarra Dam is strategically important for Baghdad’s security.
In this case, any division here would be costly and haphazard, harming one community or the other. These partition plans, and the sectarian slogans that accompany them, mean that Iraq’s Shi’ites are no longer as keen as they were to liberate Mosul from the grip of ISIS. Some Shi’ites have started to ask: why should Shi’ites sacrifice their sons and resources to liberate Mosul from the clutches of ISIS when its people do not want to live alongside Iraq’s Shi’ites?
However, questions such as this will only result in further violence and destruction. Without a central government in Baghdad, the areas occupied by ISIS cannot be liberated. Even if the Iraqi armed forces liberated these cities and then withdrew, they would only fall back into ISIS hands.
The division of Iraq will only serve ISIS’s interests and even Iraq’s Kurdistan region will be affected by this. The stances of Iraq’s neighboring states and the regional balance of power regarding Kurdistan is well known; therefore it is in the interests of the Kurdish people to support and promote democracy.
As for Mr. Biden, let us hope he understands that his proposal would ultimately benefit ISIS. In fact, this would be the best gift Biden could give the terrorist group.