The Three-State Solution for Iraq

(New York Times) - Leslie H. Gelb President Bush's new strategy of transferring power quickly to Iraqis, and his critics' alternatives, all commit the U.S. to a unified Iraq, artificially and fatefully made whole from three distinct ethnic and sectarian communities. That has been possible in the past only by the application of overwhelming and brutal force. The only viable strategy may be to correct the historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center, and Shiites in the south. Almost immediately, this would allow America to put most of its money and troops where they would do the most good quickly - with the Kurds and Shiites. The U.S. could extricate most of its forces from the so-called Sunni Triangle, north and west of Baghdad, largely freeing American forces from fighting a costly war they might not win. American officials could then wait for the troublesome and domineering Sunnis, without oil or oil revenues, to moderate their ambitions or suffer the consequences. For decades, the U.S. has worshiped at the altar of a unified yet unnatural Iraqi state. Allowing all three communities within that false state to emerge at least as self-governing regions would allow us to find Iraq's future in its denied but natural past. The writer is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.

2003-11-26 00:00:00

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