Nouri al-Maliki (and Partition) are Bad for Iraq
Posted by Shadi Hamid
It is a mystery to me how the idea of partitioning Iraq into three separate states (or "statelets") has gotten traction in elite foreign policy circles. It's amazing how an idea so self-evidently bad could be considered good. I suppose I can see the attraction. Everything else has failed, so let's try something so left-field, that, who knows, it might actually work. Sort of like John Chait's Swiftian exercise of floating, tongue-partly-in-cheek, the idea of bringing Saddam back into power. Well, Reza Aslan does a useful service in debunking the three-state plan in the latest issue of TNR:
Partitioning Iraq would in no way solve the country's most intractable problem: how to divide oil revenue evenly. Considering that the vast majority of Iraq's oil fields reside almost exclusively in the Shia south and the Kurdish north, it is not difficult to imagine how partition could lead to the permanent exclusion of the Sunnis from what is practically Iraq's sole source of revenue. This would likely result in an even greater sense of alienation among the Sunnis and, consequently, increased sectarian violence.
However, the rest of his article is somehow less convincing. Aslan argues that:
Despite the country's rapid descent into chaos and the government's deadlock on fundamental issues like revenue-sharing, the Iraqis have done a masterful job of coming together to lay the groundwork for a unified, viable state. The Iraqi constitution provides a template for a united yet pluralistic nation...And the fractious government, in spite of its bumbling ineffectiveness, has nevertheless managed to come to terms on issues of mutual concern that would have been inconceivable a mere year ago. Indeed, the fact that the Iraqi government remains standing despite a devastating civil war is in itself a miracle.
Well, one of the reasons we have an ever-intensifying civil war in the first place is because of the utter incompetence of Nouri al-Maliki's government and its continued willingness to turn a blind eye to the increasingly brutal, roving death squads of its Sadrist coalition partners. Yes, Maliki is complicit in the state-sponsored murder of Sunnis. If there's been one time where I've felt that toppling a democratically-elected leader would be the moral thing to do, it is now. Of course, this is not to say we should, because we have no guarantee that the next guy would be any better (and ousting elected leaders would set a very, very bad precedent). In any case, our indulgence of Maliki and the Sadrists must end. Oh, but I forgot, we don't have anymore leverage with anyone in the Middle East, the wonderful result of six years of the Bush administration's uncanny ability to do the wrong thing at the wrong time all of the time.