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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.

© 2020 Covington & Burling LLPNational Law Review, Volume IV, Number 217

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About this Author

Allan Topol, Covington, Environmental attorney
Senior Counsel

Allan Topol is a resident in the firm’s Washington office.  While practicing law with Covington, he has written ten novels of international intrigue and numerous articles dealing with foreign policy issues in The Huffington PostThe New York TimesThe Washington Post, and Military.com.

Mr. Topol’s law practice has involved extensive civil and criminal litigation, with an emphasis on water, air and major hazardous waste enforcement cases, as well as international environmental law and toxic torts.  He has also advised clients on many of...

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