Redrawn Lines Seen as No Cure in Iraq Conflict

(New York Times) Robert F. Worth - Over the past two weeks, the specter that has haunted Iraq since its founding 93 years ago appears to have become a reality: the de facto partition of the country into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish cantons. Across the Middle East, centrifugal forces unleashed by the Arab uprisings of 2011 continue to erode political structures and borders that have prevailed since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. Iraqi analyst Zaid al-Ali warned that "any effort to make [the partition of Iraq] official would likely lead to an even greater disaster - not least because of the many mixed areas of the country, including Baghdad, where blood baths would surely ensue as different groups tried to establish facts on the ground." The Pentagon has quietly hinted it could live with Iraq's current division, despite the dangers posed by a potential new terrorist sanctuary in the deserts linking Syria and Iraq. Many ordinary Sunnis describe the seizing of Mosul and other cities as a popular revolution against a Shiite-led government, not a terrorist onslaught. With Iran, their historic enemy, now lining up drones and other military supplies to help the government of al-Maliki retake the north - and protect the south - many Sunnis may become further alienated from the state. Last week, ISIS issued an 8-page report denouncing the Middle Eastern border system as a colonialist imposition, and included photographs of its fighters destroying "crusader partitions" between Iraq and Syria. The ISIS onslaught has made the formal secession of Iraqi Kurdistan far more plausible. Across the border in Syria, a Kurdish region in the country's north is also effectively independent of Damascus, with its own military and provisional government. And Turkey, which in the past strongly opposed an independent Kurdish state on its border, now sees the Kurds as a stable buffer between itself and the extremists of ISIS. Division is now largely a fait accompli. Reversing it would take enormous resources.

2014-06-27 00:00:00

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