New Internationalist

Time to break up Iraq

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You can’t just put Batman and the Joker in a house and expect them to live together... batman.wikia.com under a Creative Commons Licence

If you think that politics is a fickle business of lies, corruption and self-interest, then this piece is going to be a big ‘I told you so’ for you.

The problems with Iraq didn’t start with President George W Bush’s invasion of the country, and they didn’t start with Saddam Hussein either.

Iraq is one of those countries that has been pushed and pulled at the behest of whatever was the most powerful nation that happened to be around at the time.  

The story starts around the end of World War One, in which Ottoman Empire had sided with Germany. When it was looking likely that the Ottoman Empire would be defeated, Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and François Georges-Picot of France reached a secret agreement on behalf of their governments to divide up the Ottoman lands based on national interests – without consideration of religious or ethnic groups living in those areas.

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Treaty of Sèvres was drawn up, which incorporated parts of the Sykes-Picot agreement but also provided for a referendum in the Kurdish areas on independence. Turkey refused to ratify the treaty and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk fought for Turkish independence. This brought the Allies back to the negotiating table, where they gave in to many of Turkey’s demands. So it was that the Treaty of Lausanne was ratified without mention of the Kurds or Kurdistan.

It is no coincidence that Britain and France were arguing for control of Iraq’s oilfields as far back as 1918 – from these days onwards, oil has been the motivation for control of Iraq both by the British and later by the Americans.

It seems crazy now to think that you could group so many conflicting and hostile ethnicities and religions in one country without one or more of them being oppressed.  Iraq is home to: Shi’a and Sunni Muslim Arabs; Kurds, who are mostly Sunni Muslims but not Arabs; Yezedis, who are considered ‘devil worshippers’ by many Muslims; Christians; Assyrians; Turkmens and more. All this in the Middle East, where all sorts of other problems are going on – it’s enough to make you want to live out your life in a cave away from all civilization! Saddam Hussein was only able to keep people in check by murdering and gassing any section of society that dared to mutter an anti government word.

In Iraq, the Sunni and Shi’a Arabs are against the partition of Iraq in any way and refuse to allow the oil-rich city of Kirkuk to fall under Kurdish jurisdiction. The Kurds have been preparing for independence and are working towards that aim by including in their territory the predominantly Kurdish city of Kirkuk. All over Iraq there are red lines being drawn, all of which cross each other.  

Sooner or later, the break-up of Iraq is inevitable because nobody can please everyone all the time – especially when nobody is willing to compromise.

As much as many will hate to hear it, I don’t think you can even blame the Americans for what is happening in Iraq. They just kind of lifted the carpet in search of the ‘good stuff’ and also found a whole lot of dirt somebody (the British) had swept under it.

Democracy in Iraq can never work – you can’t just put Batman and the Joker in a house and expect them to live together dividing the daily chores between them and agreeing on what to watch on TV and what to have for dinner. They won’t get along, they want different things, and one of them has to leave.  

The only real solution is the break-up of Iraq into three separate states – one for Sunni Arabs, another for the Shi’a Arabs and finally one for the Kurds, with referenda taking place in those areas that are disputed, such as Kirkuk.  

But when was anything in the Middle East that easy?

Hawar Jamal Ameen lives in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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