Thursday, October 28, 2004


Territorial Integrity of Iraq

Seeking Solutions (3)
Where do we want to go? (i)

So far in this blog I have always referred to Iraq as a single entity, which I believe it is. However, there are numerous voices that have been advocating, before and after the invasion, the break-up of the country into three regions: Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite.

My position is quite clear on this one.

• The territorial integrity of the country is enshrined in all UN resolutions concerning Iraq.

• There is an international consensus regarding this issue. There is not a single international dissenting voice.

• There has been domination of parts or sects of the country over others, but not a domination of a country by another.

• Iraq is not an artificially "fabricated" country (like so many people seem to think) with a danger of falling apart. Following settlement after the last ice age, the world's civilization was born in Iraq through early city-states. The country was unified by Sargon of Akkad (Agade) in 2400 BC (that's 4400 years ago!). There were many periods following the fall of the many civilizations this country has witnessed where Iraq disintegrated again and again into several regions, but never along those lines now advocated. All Iraqis are part of this long history. People (especially in "young" countries) sometimes tend to under-estimate the importance of this very important historic bond.

• Purely practical reasons (regardless of preferences or aspirations):

o Turkey, Iran and Syria will never accept any scheme that may lead to the establishment of a Kurdish state in the future. They will use all means to resist it. Turkey may even go to war to prevent that. Since 1991, Iraq's northern region was practically autonomous, but it was never encouraged to separate, precisely for this reason.

o A Kurdish state cannot economically survive without oil-rich Kirkuk. But Kirkuk has sizable Arab and Turkman populations. It is contested. This is a recipe for bloody strife.

o Baghdad is, in Iraqi terms, quite cosmopolitan. It has about 25% of the population of Iraq reflecting the whole country. There can never be a solution to Baghdad within these schemes.

o The US will never consent to a Shiite separate entity in the south. Given the present theological regime in Iran and the Shiite populations in Bahrain, the Ahsaa eastern province of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the Gulf would be a Shiite "lake". Given the enormous amount of oil reserves in this area, the conclusion is obvious.

With these factors in mind, I can see no benefit to anybody, Iraqis, neighboring countries or the USA from the disintegration of Iraq.

To be fair to the US administration, no hint in this direction was made by any US official during the past two years that I am aware of.

An important point often overlooked when designing schemes for Iraq is that there are numerous other religious and ethnic groups in this country which do not fall into the above-mentioned categories. All these people need to have their rights preserved.

In conclusion, we need to guarantee equal human, religious and cultural rights to all Iraqis regardless of ethnicity or religious beliefs within a unified country.

I hope that this is a reasonable objective to aim for.


Thank you for a very insightful debate over the last two blogs. I hope that this post is mild enough to allow some heated tempers (such as Barry's!) to cool down a bit… but I cannot be sure until I've seen your comments on this. I have been surprised before! I wonder what American-hatred or Islamo-fascist propaganda messages will be found in it! [By the way Barry, using asterisks or shorthand to camouflage certain words is cheating!]

There is nothing new about hating the bearer of bad news. I assure you that this will not deter me! Sometimes I think that I should have called this blog "Bitter Medicine" or, better still "Rosy Picture Desecration"… but then again "Hello" Anon might think that I am a right-wing fanatic!

But more seriously, there is so much to say about so many issues. There is a danger of being overtaken by events as Circular has said. So I am going to post more frequently. I hope regular readers wouldn't mind.

From Circular

In other words, there could never be such a country as the "Federated States of Iraq?" Are you quite sure of this? Aren’t you in a sort of "Year Zero" situation at present? Might not some sort of loosely regional Federation acknowledge the main religious and ethnic differences but retain the overall identity? The problem I guess would be creating a central structure that could hold the Federation together. But it’s the same question that I asked in the previous Blog: how do the Kurds see themselves? Kurds first, Iraqis second? Vice versa? Or just Kurds?

Theorising about other countries is both arrogant and ignorant, I know, but isn’t there a sense in which most nations eventually settle into a configuration that reflects various geographical, ethnic, religious and racial realities? The U.S.A. may in theory be a union of semi-independent States, but in practice there’s no difference between them now, it’s one culture (though at present there might be some merit in giving Texas back to Mexico!) India and Pakistan had to separate, they could never have become one nation. Malaysia is a Federation of different states held together by common concerns. North and South Vietnam could never have remained separated, they were divided by artificial cold-war distinctions which were less important in the long run than ancient national identity. And so on.

So was Saddam inevitable? Can Iraq, with its own unique mixture of differences, be viable without a strongman? I know far too little about your history to hazard any guess, but will be very interested in your answer.


Heated temper? Believe me, I have been holding my tongue. :-) I am not saying I am "shooting the messenger". My point is that you cannot say that Americans hate Iraqis. If you are an Iraqi you can say that Iraqi's hate the US (though I would have to question that also because of other blogs) but you cannot say that Americans hate Iraqis. You are absolutely welcome to criticize what we are doing. The US is far from perfect. I was even intrigued by Salam Pax's recount of his trip here. I don't necessarily agree with some of his sentiments but I found it very interesting.

My problem is when people accept generalizations as fact. I'm not sure anyone even knows what the truth is anymore. Take the recent explosives debate here in the US. They were there, they weren't there, the Russians shipped them to Syria, etc., etc. How is any rational person supposed to wade through all of this???

BTW, just to stay on topic, I am all for a unified Iraq especially since Iraq was essentially the cradle of civilization.

Abu-Definitely a more insightful and constructive blog. The quesion now is: How to get the three sections of Iraqi citizenry to put aside religious and ethnic beliefs for the whole of the country. I have never been to Iraq, so I must ask this quesion. Aside from the war, are the differences so great that this is not possible? In everyday life, do Sunni's, Kurds, and Shi'ites relate and intermingle normally? ("Normally" being a relevant term)


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Rant from Circular

Abu the main theme coming through from your correspondents, apart from the obvious Imperialist nutters, is that it will all be worth it in the long run because you ignorant Ragheads will have been brought FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY, by the people who invented same and hold the copyright. This can be little irritating, so a few thoughts on F & D:
The LARGEST democracy is actually INDIA. Since 1947, despite horrendous problems of poverty, overpopulation and bureaucracy, it has avoided coups, revolutions and dictatorships, and maintained some semblance of a fairish electoral and even justice system.
The OLDEST democracy is presumably the U.K., which got the thing going with representation in a Parliament, and produced a few basic ideas like habeus corpus, so that they usually don’t have people detained indefinitely without trial.
On the other hand, FRANCE gave it a big boost with Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, and apart from a couple of pauses for Napoleons, have kept it up ever since.
The most DEMOCRATIC democracy, arguably, is Australia, where voter turnout is close to 100%, for the simple reason that voting is compulsory there, you can get fined if you don’t. Rather surprising really, since there’s nothing on Earth more independent than a bloody-minded Aussie.
Little sister N.Z. was the first place to realise that women are human too, and give them the vote. Now its mainly run by females. Voter turnout usually around 80%, I believe.
The CANADIANS are apparently very like the Kiwis and Aussies, only more so. And they manage to shoot each other a whole lot less than certain neighbours.
The SCANDANAVIAN countries having been doing various forms of democracy for a very long time, and usually come out the FREEST in any survey of human rights.
The SPANISH, after 40-odd years of dictatorship, took to F & D like ducks to water, and rapidly tossed out their last government when it didn’t listen to them.
And right NEXT DOOR to you, TURKEY is actually a functioning democracy, just about to join the E.U. Do they count as A-Rabs? Isn’t it mostly a Muslim country?
And all of the above countries seem to manage to hold elections without an excess of ridiculous drama.
So while you are planning your new Eye-Rak, I hope you remember that F & D are maybe a bit more than what comes out of the Green Zone.
Phew! That feels better!

Well, this is a post that even a neo-con imperialist warmonger can agree with.

"In conclusion, we need to guarantee equal human, religious and cultural rights to all Iraqis regardless of ethnicity or religious beliefs within a unified country."

That pretty much sums up the American objective for what an ideal Iraq would look like. That's like the definition of liberal pluralism, and I rather thought everyone had given up hope that that could ever be achieved and were all settling for a Shiite religiously dominated state with a strong executive.

Obviously, guarenteeding equal religious and cultural rights to all Iraqis would require the institution of a strong set of protections for freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and hence a rock-solid separation of church and state.

If Abu Khaleel can come to this conclusion via a desire to avoid the breakup of Iraq into separate entities then I have hope that the rest of Iraq could as well.

One this that bothers me though is why people interpret federalism as necessarily meaning a breakup of the country. In my opinion, federalism is precisely the compromise needed to guarentee unity and equal rights.

A federal Iraq does not have to consist of three states - Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish. It can be done by giving more power to provincial and local city leaders, within a constitutional framework that guarenttees rights for everyone. In a way, Iraq already IS federal, because it already does have provincial governments that are separate from the central government.

Thus, the two or three kurdish provinces would each have a measure of local autonomy, but so would Anbar, so would Najaf, so would Basra. They would all have an equal degree of autonomy, underneath a unified Federal government.

The reason this is needed for compromise is because there are forces in each of these areas that both oppose a breakup of Iraq, and have very strong differing beliefs about religion and politics. Making each province somewhat autonomous would all them to run their own region close to their own customs and habits, rather than having them all fighting to dominate the central government.

Well Circular, then how come these "models of Democracy and Freedom" aren't over helping spread the love in Iraq eh??

Barry "The Imperialist Nutter"

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Hello Abu Khaleel,
I am afraid I disagree on this one. The forces holding Iraq together is the 80 year national identity of Iraqis(weak under old Pan Arabists) and the international community(run by countries which hate giving rights to their own minorities) without as you say. The forces threatening to destroy it are religion, tribe and in the case of the Kurds language and culture. With the exception of the Basques in Spain, the Kurds are the only people in the world without a homeland and they definitely need on. On the Shia, there is a war against them of the Sunnis for God and power. Everyone has the right to live in peace. The Sunnis will never submit to Shia rule and the Shia will never submit to Sunni rule again. Iraq was created by Bagdad and Bagdad creates Iraq. Nationalism is an old outdated idea, looking at Europe. People need not be forced to live together in fear.Are the Iraqis slaves to the great city of Bagdad? You remember the Tower of Babel? The best thing would be the amicable dissolution of Iraq.

Circular, neo-con warmonger, Hello-anon and others,

Baghdad is so important because it is living proof that all those different groups: Arabs, Kurds, Muslim, Christian, Sunni, Shiite can live in peace and harmony. Throughout history, there have been "incidents" but there has never been any major conflict within Baghdad between these groups. Please take that into account.

Perhaps the discussion is moving faster than I intended but my belief is that there is a solution to the multitude of problems that some of you mention (including the national aspirations of Kurds which I actually fully understand and endorse).

The solutions is a "federal" system that uses "smaller units" than the regions sometimes suggested. This way, there is not much danger of any of those units separating from the country.

This way you can preserve the rights and identity of different groups, share national wealth equally, have a say in local and national affairs and still uppease neighbors and major powers.

I have discussed this in detail in my othr blog (Is There a Solution?) but it seems that I will have to discuss some of the issues again in this blog for greater exposure. Please be patient with me!

From Circular

"By the waters of Babylon ...."
I see that Riverbend has finally lost it - her posts have been so human, so warm and amusing, but her latest is just a bitter hymn of hatred for Bush and his vicious cronies. Do you know her?
Because no Western news crews have apparently been safe on the streets for weeks, we can only go to places like "Dailywarnews" for information, and they seem to suggest that the situation there is not getting worse by the day, it’s getting worse by the hour. What is really HAPPENING?
Discussing a future Iraq under these circumstances seems like drawing up plans for your new house while the old one is still burning down around you. But anyway
Your "smaller units" proposal could certainly be a possible solution for a multi-faceted country - my knowledge of political theory is less than zero but there must be a name for it - but under present circumstances wouldn’t it require a benevolent and competent occupation force to initiate it? Where are you going to get them from?
Or are you saying that that’s what should rise from the ashes? Certainly there have been plenty of "post-apocalyptic" novels which have envisioned this approach to recovery from a nuclear cataclysm - but they’re just fantasy.
And are you suggesting only a "district" system - essentially just the good old Westminister model which started it all, perhaps with fairly small "electorates" and a multitude of Representatives, or would you want to add any refinements such as some elements of the MMP system I described earlier?
Is it a good or bad thing that Iraq is probably too complex to settle for just a primitive "two-party" such as some supposedly democratic countries still maintain?

Here is an interesting perspective from a Kurdish Iraqi woman:

Abu Khaleel:

While I agree that your analysis is eminently reasonable, there is one portion of it that strikes me as inaccurate.

The portion where you concluded "With these factors in mind, I can see no benefit to anybody, Iraqis, neighboring countries or the USA from the disintegration of Iraq." Under certain circumstance, the disintegration of Iraq would be in Turkish and Iranian national interests.

If U.S. troops left prior to the reconstitution of an effective Iraqi Army, the Turks would be quite tempted to invade the north. By this invasion, the Turks could crush Kurdish nationalist dreams once and for all and take over the northern Iraqi oil feeds. This would be quite a prize.

I also believe that a weak Iraq would be a tempting target for Iran. I seriously doubt that the Iranian hardliners could resist the temptation to invade. It could easily justify an invasion, at least to a domestic audience, as protecting fellow Shia from Sunni jihadi attacks and justify long term occupation of the southern oil fields as repayment for Iraq's aggression during the Iran/Iraq war.

There is another factor that you must consider. In any proposed solution for peace in Iraq, you will need to factor in one absolute fact of the American political scene. In the post-9/11 era, no American president, whether Republican or Democrat, will risk that any portion of Iraq will become a failed state where terrorists can be trained, funded and organized for attacks on American soil. Thus, until Iraq is stable, American troops will not withdraw.

Last post was mine.

Mark In Chi Town

If the Turks invaded Iraq, they can kiss good-bye getting into Europe.

Mark in Chi Town,

I dare say, under the circumstances, the Iranians would even be justified in doing so, to protect the Shia population from further attacks by Sunnis. They'd probably call it a "humanitarian intervention", and get, if not the blessing of, then the tolerance of the UN. France in particular would probably sing their praises and immediately sign a contract to run the Southern oil fields. It's not like the US would be able to do anything about it at that point, and I can't see anyone else intervening either.

On the other hand, Iran's government may actually be easier to overthrow from within than it would be to establish a stable democracy in Iraq, so maybe that would not be such a bad thing? - Let Iran take a piece of Iraq, then encourage a revolution from the Youth. Voila - instant pro-western democracy with lots of oil.

Iran also has a border with Afghanistan, which would possibly allow us to use Iranian airspace instead of Pakistani, which would enable us to put more pressure on Musharraf.

Of course ... Iran's regime may be a lot way from falling. A bird in the hand...

Why would the Sh'ia who are the majority accept the disintegration of 'Iraq?

I can see a future Irag, with today's boundaries, that is has a federated system of three or more components. That, to me, is actually the easy part. What I have trouble understanding is how will democracy work with what looks to be a very wide desire for Islamic law? What will be the status of women? Of non-Muslims? What will the education system look like? (Hopefully not like Saudi Arabia's.) It seems like religious leaders Iraq have tremendous influence. Will they "permit" anything like a true democracy?

I fear that American and other nation's troops will be in Iraq for a very long time as all this gets sorted out, or that you will be left to sort it out yourselves in a civil war.

Abu - I hope you and others have a more positive view along with some good argument and facts that paint a better picture than mine.


Re Andy’s post above: I think Abu said several posts ago that he would address the "religion" question later. In anticipation, can I repeat what I’ve implied above about different approaches to "democracy" and "freedom." I think it is difficult for us Westerners to put ourselves into the mind-set of a culture that has a very different history of "equality" and "freedom of belief" from the one that is ingrained in us. I wonder whether it is reasonable to expect an instant transformation of mind-set, notably in attitudes towards women. So does religion have to be factored into the equation, whether you like it or not?
(Not that I go for Islam in a big way. Or any other "prescriptive" religion. Silly little fuss here in N.Z. at present over whether an Afghani immigrant should have to remove her burqa to give evidence in court - so the jury can see her facial reactions. The resistance is coming from her, not the males involved.)
Of course this would be more of a worry if the U.S. had invaded the country that actually provided the most support and fundamentalist encouragement for 9/11. I.e. Saudi Arabia. You’d have a real problem installing F & D there!
If Abu and Riverbend and the Jarrah family are actually representative of Iraq, they seem to be more educated, and more citizens of the modern world, than any of us posters. Riverbend writes so well! (And you, Abu. Calm down.)
But this invading countries is so much nonsense anyway. Posters like Mark and his respondent above, going on about Iran might do this, Turkey might do that - grown-up countries in the 21st century don’t actually sit around plotting invasions, the only guys who have tried it in the last twenty years were Saddam W. Hussein and George W. Shrub.
Really gets up your nose.


I'm sorry I don't know Riverbend. I only wrote to her once. She always reflected the sentiments of so many Iraqis, and most Iraqis feel bitter and angry (to put it mildly!) at the state of their country. Unlike many American, they know who to blame! I know that many American Saddamists are going to hate me for saying this… but she is sincere and honest.

Regarding what's happening, I assure you that, it is far worse than you get on the news… far worse. Only a fraction of what is happening is being reported. But we cannot talk about that now with the US election so close, can we? Maybe later.

You have asked so many penetrating questions (Just go through your last several posts) ! You will have to forgive me for I will not be able to answer many of them immediately, but I will keep them in mind to address some of them in future posts.

As to my own writings about future plans "when the house is on fire", well, I can tell you than I formulated some of these plans in 1999… at a time when there was no light at the end of our previous tunnel. At that time, the house was not burning… but it was being demolished with the residents inside. That didn't stop me then. Quite some time ago, I had made my own personal decision to stay in this country no matter what. I also believe that under the worst possible conditions one still needs to know where one wants to go! An artificial light of hope at the end of the tunnel? compass in a burning wood? Maybe, but not an impractical dream.


To those who have been asking about Iraq and Iraqis, my other blog (A Glimpse of Iraq) may have some answers to some of your questions.

Anonymous or Circular or whoever said, "grown-up countries in the 21st century don’t actually sit around plotting invasions."

Are you really that naive? Of course, they do. That is why they have military planners.

According to this press report, a variety of Turkish papers have been reporting that their government has recently drawn up contingency plans for an invasion and occupation of nothern Iraq. The link is . It is unlikely that they would activate the plan unless U.S. withdrew its troops from Iraq. But such plans need to be factored into any realisic plan for ending the conflict in Iraq.

As to the other poster's comment concerning Turkey's behaviour and the EU, the Turkish papers have already addressed that issue explictly, stating, "[T]here are national goals and causes that are more important than the EU."

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