News / Middle East

    Is the Partition of Iraq Inevitable?

    People inspect the site of a car bomb attack on cars lined up at a gas station in the oil rich city of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, July 10, 2014.
    People inspect the site of a car bomb attack on cars lined up at a gas station in the oil rich city of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, July 10, 2014.
    Mohamed Elshinnawi

    As Sunni jihadists continue to make gains in Iraq, Kurds have taken control of two oil fields in northern Iraq and have pulled out of the Shi'ite government of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. Experts say that that the country’s future may have already unfolded.

    Edmund Ghareeb, professor of Middle East history at the American University in Washington, D.C., agrees. He believes that the current situation could easily deteriorate into long-term civil war that could entail ethnic cleansing and the devastation of the country’s infrastructure.He warns that the Shi'ite-led government would be acquiescent to Iran and argues that any amount of U.S. involvement now is not likely to make much of a difference.

    At the same time, the crisis provides opportunity for at least one segment of Iraq’s population.

    “Perhaps, more than any time in modern history, the Kurds have an opportunity to establish an independent state of their own,” he said. “Not only taking over Kirkuk, but also discovering oil in their region, which makes it economically viable.”

    But the formation of an independent Kurdistan by Iraq’s five million Kurds won’t just change the face of Iraq. Nine million Kurds in Iran and 22 million Kurds in Turkey could be tempted to emulate their Iraqi counterparts, and that dynamic could threaten the nation-state system of the entire region.

    Staving off partition

    The better scenario for Iraq, says Ghareeb, would be reconciliation and the formation of national unity government to give a political voice to all of Iraq’s factions. He said the U.S. is actively pressuring Iraqi leaders come to such an understanding.

    “The U.S. realizes that the disintegration of Iraq carries with it dangers and consequences that not only threaten the Iraqi state but are also likely to upset regional stability and the interests of many parties including the U.S.,” Ghareeb said.

    He also advocates a system of federalism that would distribute a fair share of Iraq’s national wealth to localities based on their percentage of the total population.

    But Richard Brennan, a senior political scientist and Iraq expert at the Rand Corporation, says that keeping Iraq intact would depend on there being a single Iraqi figure who could appeal to Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds – and even if such a personality were to exist, it may be too late to bring factions together.

    “Fear and mistrust govern the Iraqi politics,” Brennan said. “Sunnis fear not having a stake in the future of Iraq, and the Shi'ites fear being dominated by Sunnis and repressed as they have for hundreds of years.”

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Not Again from: Canada
    July 12, 2014 9:15 PM
    We can continue to be nostalgic, and continue to go along by historical wrongs for the sake of retaining a name which means very little to the people, and IRAQ is not the only state with these issues.
    We continue to see great conflict, great suffering, the creation of millions of refugees, because as ostriches do, we want to stick our heads in the quicksands of the past; those quicksands of the dastardly imperial legacies, that have created millions of victims around the World. Colonial tribal dividing borders, the cause of conflicts, are wrong and are one of the main causes of the conflicts we observe. Millions of innocent people are paying a huge price for the negative colonial legacy= bad borders; be it in Ukraine, be it in Syria, "Iraq", CAR, Libya, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan..... an endless list of countries in turmoil.
    At this stage Iraq is a nightmare, with the potential of far greater bloodshed than even Syria. Advocating to forcefully keep people in a totally undesired union, is morally and concretely wrong. People that can't live together need to be separated, in time, as the Europeans have done, the countries may decide to form unions, for advancement, not for the current common denominator, of extremists, of all sides, killing innocent civilians and destroying all structures/infrastructure, and even enslaving their opponents.
    Maliki has clearly shown no desire to resign, so that this mirrage called Iraq can survive for a few more years. The Kurds have oil in their region, the Shia have oil in their region(South), and the Sunni have oil in their region (North West). So oil should not be what keeps them from separating. All of them face the super threat, which is IS (ISIS/ISIL). A four way conflict will only strengthen IS, and not just destroy Iraq's tribes, but far beyond.
    Bottom line, forcing people to stay in a murderous union, will just postpone the separation, with far more victimes to be created, while forcing them to stay in the union.

    by: John Quaye Quao from: London
    July 12, 2014 5:25 PM
    Yes I think the best solution is for Iraq to be divided according to the three main tribes to prevent ethical conflicts in many countries in Africa for an example which is the main African problem regarding the progress of Africa
    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 12, 2014 8:50 PM
    Fisrt, you're in England, so Engalnd only knows what's best to create conflict!! Second, WTF was that comment about Africa????

    by: Peter Beswick from: Southampton UK
    July 12, 2014 4:54 PM
    Yes
    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 12, 2014 8:47 PM
    Yes

    by: Climp Jones
    July 12, 2014 4:30 PM
    Clueless Title. Iraq is already "partitioned" and has been for over two decade's. VOA should either stop posting irrelevant 'content' or at least make an effort to try and keep up with reality rather than taking a cue from the President pretending to be "shovel ready."
    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 12, 2014 8:46 PM
    Oooooooh snap!!!! Excellent!

    by: Carl Leitz
    July 12, 2014 4:26 PM
    .
    Iraq just HAS been partitioned, or more accurately, re-partitioned.
    .
    The 3-way partition of Sunni, Shiia & Kurd sections worked for 100's of years in the Ottoman Empire.
    .
    When the Brits took over from the Ottomans post-WW1, they tried to remake Iraq on the unified, Euro nation-state model; it never worked.

    by: Abdus-Salaam from: U.S.
    July 12, 2014 3:59 PM
    Basra, Dhi-Qar, Masin, Qadisiyah, Karbala, Wasit and Babil is all that is left for the Shi'ite. Go and live in peace build your nation state, do not let Maliki and Iran bring death and destruction to your provinces.

    by: Ed-L from: Walnut Creek, CA
    July 12, 2014 3:48 PM
    With enlightened leadership, Iraq could become similar to Switzerland, where it is partitioned into three distinct official regions, and yet share the same nation... In Switzerland each region even speaks a different language --- French, Swiss-German, and Italian.
    In Response

    by: Brian from: Olympia WA
    July 12, 2014 5:31 PM
    The Canton that formed Switzerland is populated by different ethnic groups. But they are united by a common catholic faith and the original desire for independence from the Holy Roman Empire. Even today the Swiss have no desire to integrate into a wider Europe.
    The "Iraqi" people are a colonial mishmash of peoples squeezed into borders drawn by English an French diplomats to serve the agendas of their own empires.

    by: Ken Collinsn from: Virginia
    July 12, 2014 3:31 PM
    Iraq is an artificial country created by drawing lines on a map after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It could be kept intact if everyone were reconciled, and of course that is an easy process that could be done in a week or so. NOT.

    What is the problem with partitioning Iraq and putting each nation in its own country? It should have been that way all along, and they'd get along better that way.
    In Response

    by: Mark from: Virginia
    July 12, 2014 11:03 PM
    During the Ottoman Empire, Iraq was partitioned into three regions, each faction having its own lands. Even then, and for nearly 100 years during that time, those three factions still were at each other's throats, waging war between themselves, each trying to dominate the others and take over each other's regions. It didn't work then, and will not work today.
    You can't keep them separated, you can't keep them together, no matter what you do, they will fight each other...

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.