The Disintegration of Iraq
The news almost every day contains events which harken the end of Iraq as a nation state. Radical Sunnis take over Mosul for their ISIS state. Kurds tighten their control over oil in the north. Shiites kidnap a top Sunni leader and his security men in Baghdad.
It is not surprising that Iraq should be dismembered. To start with, the country was an artificial creation of British and French diplomats and cartographers who created new nations to control as they divided up the spoils of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. Through its whole existence, Iraq was nothing more than three warring disparate groups: Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, whose animosity exceeded their desire to work together. The country was held together first by a colonial power, then by a monarchy, followed by the Baathists, and finally by the US military.
There was an opportunity during the US occupation to pump life into this moribund entity. However, we did not engage sufficiently in effective nation-building, except when we drew Sunni tribal support during the surge, so that in the longer term, institutions were not in place for disparate Iraqi populations to share power in a democratic arrangement. And perhaps it was impossible. Nevertheless, we handed the keys to the Shiite Prime Minister Maliki and withdrew.
Rather than seeking to find common ground with Sunnis and Kurds, Maliki turned to Iran for help and set out to turn Iraq into another Middle Eastern Shiite nation. We are now witnessing the results of Maliki’s biased rule. When new maps are printed ten years from now, will there even be an entity known as Iraq? It is doubtful.