Opinion (Joost Hiltermann): Why 'soft partition' of Iraq won't work
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In the escalating debate over the US role in Iraq, the latest panacea on offer is an option called "soft partition." However, like "hard" partition (Iraq's breakup) and a military surge, this proposal will fail in its goal to create a new and stable modus vivendi in Iraq.
Soft partition prescribes a weak Iraqi central government; three or four strong regional governments; and the physical separation, with US help, of Iraq's three major ethnic and religious groups: Kurds, Shiites, and Sunni Arabs. They each would receive a proportionate share of royalties from oil sales. Thus Sunni Arabs, most of whom are residents of oil-poor regions, would still be guaranteed 20 percent of oil income, since they make up about 20 percent of Iraq's population.
Soft-partition proponents argue that a loose federation along these lines reflects reality – that Iraq cannot be kept together as a central state, given the hostility among groups and their attempts at sectarian cleansing. And, say advocates, the proposal is not an American imposition but an Iraqi idea enshrined in the new Constitution.
But the concept of soft partition misreads Iraqi realities.
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