image from www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq
Leading negotiators for the three major factions involved in writing Iraq’s constitution failed to reach an agreement and submit a draft on schedule. The United States pressed the leaders to reach an agreement by the Monday, August 15 deadline but the differences were too fundamental to paper over, forcing the National Assembly to either dissolve itself and call for new elections or extend its deadline by seven days.
President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice tried to downplay the major setback by suggesting that negotiators have made substantial progress through the peaceful, democratic process but the differences are so fundamental that such progress seems to be elusive. The Kurds are not only insisting upon autonomy and control over the Kirkuk oil fields, and a secular state, but also the right to secede from Iraq should it choose to and the Shi’ites have now insisted upon similar demands for autonomy and oil field revenue control while pushing for a near-theocratic Islamic state.. Lacking oil revenues and militia of their own, the Sunnis insist upon a strong national government which could provide for them.
The disputes over federalism and religion in a new Iraq were expected but the American administration hoped that the leading factions would make some progress on these difficult questions. Apparently they did not.
Iraq’s Kurds don’t share our vision for a democratic, Iraq with a strong centralized government in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein brutally suppressed a Kurdish-led rebellion after his army was pushed out of Kuwait. They were pushed out of the Kirkuk region but created their own parallel administrative institutions in the protected zone in the north. The Shi’ites were also brutally repressed and now seek autonomy and the oil reserves in the south.
Our national interests will be undermined if the Kurds and Shi’ites succeed, for the Iraqi vision they share will fundamentally deprive any centralized government from the very revenues it will need to maintain an army and control its borders, and the coercive force needed to bound the three main ethnic groups together. The Shi’ite-controlled region will develop closer ties with the anti-American regime governing Iran while the Kurdish-controlled north will encourage Kurdish rebellions in Syria, Iran and Turkey, an important strategic ally of ours in southwest Asia. The free-for-all that will follow will only help the terrorists who could then transport weapons between Pakistan and Lebanon.
What the Bush administration can do is questionable. We allied ourselves with groups that do not share in our vision for stability in the Middle East in order to depose a regime that at one time opposed us. Now Saddam Hussein is deposed and the winners have every opportunity to fight for their competing visions which Hussein denied to them. The Kurds will push for independence and the Shi’ites for control over the remaining oil reserves in the south leaving the Sunnis with a resource-deprived region in the center which will be forced to rely upon the Shi’ites and Kurds for their energy needs.
For some of us who supported this war, this is indeed a bitter pill to swallow. We knew that Saddam Hussein was “detained.” He invaded two countries in violation of international norms but the first ended in stale-mate and the second ended with his troops being pushed out of Kuwait..
We correctly ignored arguments using that information to oppose warfare because Saddam Hussein’s political calculations were unpredictable. He ordered his military to fire on the American fighter jets that entered Iraqi air space and he defied United Nation orders to allow for unfettered access for weapons inspections, first by kicking them out and then by at first refusing to admit its inspectors back in. Given his willingness to fire on American and British aircraft, we thought he would have no problem selling or giving his chemical and biological weapons to some terrorists who would strike us, and avenge himself for his failure in Kuwait.
But our intelligence information was wrong. Whether Mr. Hussein knew it or not, his chemical and biological weapons programs were either dismantled or sold before we could prevent our enemies from acquiring them. The Kurds and Shi’ites certainly gained a lot from Saddam Hussein’s demise, but this blogger is beginning to think that we did not and in fact, may have lost more than we have gained by this endeavor