Saturday, May 12, 2007

Introduction to Iraq

The following is an abridged version of what I feel is going on currently in Iraq, what has led to the current situation – focusing particularly on issues that continue to influence certain in-country parties- and what to do to most effectively walk away from the situation with something resembling a more globally-beneficial Iraq then what we started with prior to the year 2002.

All of this is being written in one sitting and is my own original work. As such, it is not being professionally written, other then to be as grammatically proper as possible, and will include no citations because all ideas, opinions, and views are being developed originally. Also, I have no worldly influence for writing this. I have no scholastic or monetary gains in mind. Rather, I am- more or less- just bored and interested in the topic.

The only authority that I have to write on this topic with any sort of knowledge-base is four years military experience, of which most was spent on the ground, in Iraq, with light infantry battalions. Other then that, I am just a lowly undergraduate student, studying Middle East politics and history while attempting to obtain a B.A. in International Studies with a Minor in Religion. Could I be totally off-base in my assessment? It’s probable, but I beg only that you hear me out. Maybe something I say could be beneficial in some form, if for no other reason then to start interesting dialogue.

And, as a disclaimer, I am a Republican and a huge supporter of our current President, despite his flaws (like, for example, not being truly CONSERVATIVE). I also support all participation in Iraq and have been supportive since day one. I participated. I shed blood, tears, plenty of sweat, lost friends and killed bad people. While I will attempt to be unbiased, I feel obligated to let my prejudice be known. Now….

First of all, I hate to shortchange thousands of years of history by condensing all of it into a few paragraphs, but I am constrained by limitations that are guided by how long my interest will stand for this writing. Prior to the beginning of this latest Iraq war, I have had concerns with the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular. The biggest dilemma that faces the region is not religiously motivated but rather geo-politically (“geo-politics” to be a major theme throughout this writing). Certain ethnic divisiveness has contributed, throughout history, into the development of the Middle East. One divide stands out particularly; the Arab and the Persian, which given Iraq’s location should immediately stand out as a precursor to the current predicament.

However, let’s just say, hypothetically, that the Middle East was developing in a bloody but natural manner throughout history. I feel that this “natural” development came to a crashing end following the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Suddenly, around that point in history, you have an entire region to be split between different Western imperialistic influences. The French had their mandate, the British theirs, and, of course, the United States had its own influence. The way my history looks back is thusly: countries in the Middle East were formed and shaped based on these foreign ownerships and not on what was most obviously correct for the region. And the creation of these countries, with boundaries that many times joined people of totally separate ethnic and religious ties, has been the single most devastating system of events to occur in the region. The creation of these countries in such a haphazard manner, to me, has been the most extreme cause of strife. And now we have an ample opportunity to correct at least one of these country’s problems.

So, let’s go from there. We have countries that exist that, if not for Western influence, really should not. But, remember, we are focusing on Iraq. Here is a country that suffers from all the maladies mentioned above. Not only do its borders contain large populations of three religiously divided groups, but it also sits directly on the Persian and Arabian divide. On one side, you have Persian Iran. On the other, you have Arab Saudi Arabia. What could good be expected of such an unfortunately geographically-placed nation?

Now with these two influences leaning heavily on each side of the country of Iraq, you have a further agitator. His name was Sadaam Hussein. But let’s remember; Sadaam was a Baathist. Scholarly types seem to forget what the Baathist party stood for (and what it still currently stands for in other nations) and that is NOT religious superiority. That is far from the truth. The Baathist platform, in a nutshell, contains a goal of spreading Pan-Arabism regardless of faith. So, suggesting that Saddam had intentions of staying true to his party’s most worthy intention, you can see how this would be particularly disheartening for its neighbor to the east, Iran.

Trying to unite an Arab nation would explain exactly why Sadaam had goals of crushing his Kurdish residents in the northern regions of his country. Adding intensity to all the disputes going on in Iraq was the Islamic Revolution that occurred in Iran in the late ‘70s. Now Iran became a pro-Shia Muslim country. Hussein, on the other hand, was a devout Sunni. Iran definitively becomes Iraq’s enemy number one, because they not only represent Persia but an opposing faction of Islam.

What does all this mean? Iraq was a kettle with the fires of hell burning underneath of it, just ready to boil over. American intervention in 2003 may have agitated the kettle, but it was already spilling. What American intervention did do, however, was give any hope to the situation. If the spark that would have ignited the country had come via any of the country’s three ethnically different groups, we would have a much worse situation now. Even scarier would have been an Iran-initiated conflict that would not only have pitted Shia versus Sunni but Persian versus Arab. With Western influence, at least now there is hope of some stability that these other options simply did not suggest.

So what is going on now? This is where geo-politics comes in. The current situation in Iraq does not hinge on religion. I repeat: Iraqis, as a general overview, are not fighting over religious differences. This is not to say that the guys on the streets might not be motivated by religion, but that is because they are “low men on the totem pole.” Religion is propaganda being used by leaders with much more deeply rooted agendas.

And those agendas revolve around geo-politics. In a perfect world, the Kurds to the north would have their own autonomous region. As would the Sunnis to the west, separated from Persia by a Shia nation in the south. Perfect, right?

Not so much and here is why. The geography of these hypothetical nations precludes them from developing. Sure, the Sunnis want independence but not in the deserted western regions of Iraq. There are hardly resources there to be economically dependent on and, worse, no connection to water to transport anything they do have to offer. So their recourse seems to be to smash the Shia to the south. In my hypothesis, the Kurds and the Sunnis could co-exist, given the Sunni nation has access to the Gulf in the south. The only method for the Sunnis to get this access seems to be via destroying the southern Shia nation.

And this, in my assessment, is why we currently have a mess. Precluding the relatively peaceful northern Kurdish region in the north, a pan-Arab nation of Sunnis and Shias for all of these reasons simply will not work. There is entirely too much influence from Shia Iran to allow the Sunni nation to survive and geo-politics limit the Sunnis from desiring such to work anyway. Uniting the two simply isn’t an answer because one faction will never settle on a straight up “50/50” government, which democracy would never create anyway. So where’s the answer?

My solution is not well thought-out, a bit abstract, and more of just a development of early thought. But why not attempt a two nation system? The Kurds can have their northern region since they seem content with just that. That would constitute the first nation. A federation can occur for the remaining Sunni and Shia regions; a federation of two states. The western Sunni region would extend from its current figurative area with a small arm cutting down the eastern side (opposite Iran) of the Shia nation, giving just enough room to create some sort of access to the Basrah port area. In exchange, the Shias can have further access to the north. Oil revenue, which would be generated most predominately by the Shia south, would be distributed throughout the two-state federation. And, you know what? As hard as it is to swallow, allow the country to adopt whatever sort of government they choose. Democracy simply will not work when population numbers dictate that one faction will out-seat another. So allow them to choose a different form of government. Let the American mission in Iraq to become the spread of peace and unity in the region and less the spread of democracy. Hard for us military-types to swallow, but maybe something that needs to be realized.

Of course, any idea like this is a pipedream as it would take renewed support from the globe’s militaries to stand in support of the new federation until they can support themselves. There are entirely too many outside threats to expect this fledgling new federation to exist without early outside support.

And, if all this fails, my only other foreseeable option is much more difficult to accept. Let Iran absorb the Shia south, satisfy them and bring about Middle East stability through appeasement. But this opens a whole new can of worms.

I genuinely feel that if my two state federation idea were more thoughtfully developed by those with much more education and experience then my own, it could be a viable plan. It would take time, but any plan would. Furthermore, it would promote stability. And stability in the Middle East should be our (American) utmost desire even greater then the spread of democracy.

No comments: