Monday, February 27, 2006

The Three State Solution

Cactus Wren has commented on the suggestion that a possible strategy for solving the Iraq problem might be what is known as the "three state solution." It seemed easier to reply here.

Dear Cactus Wren,

I am no expert, but what follows may help. A comprehensive history of Iraq is available here. The following quotation is taken from the section of that history devoted to the British Mandate after WW I:

"The merging of the three provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra into one political entity and the creation of a nation out of the diverse religious and ethnic elements inhabiting these lands was accomplished after World War I. Action undertaken by the British military authorities during the war and the upsurge of nationalism after the war helped determine the shape of the new Iraqi state and the course of events during the postwar years, until Iraq finally emerged as an independent political entity in 1932." More here

The modern nation state of Iraq is largely an artificial creation serving first British and then US geopolitical goals. As we have seen, in the absence of the Saddam government, it is on the verge of sectarian warfare.

As Leslie Gelb has written in the NY Times: “The only viable strategy, then, may be to correct the historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.”
The Gelb article, originally published in 2003 is available here.


cactuswren said...


Thanks for sharing your perspective on the three-state solution. I never expected a whole new post on it, although I think it is a very worthy discussion.

It is true that Iraq was once a divided country, but a lot has transpired in the 88-odd years since the British unified the country in 1918. People have intermarried, the cultures have mixed, and I think it would be difficult to revert back to that earlier time.

I think more fundamentally, the question is what do the Iraqi people want and what would be best for the Iraqi people.

I can't do that subject justice in this post, and there are many, many things to consider - Would an independent Kurdistan be economically viable? Turkey has threatened in the past to go to war over the creation of an independent Kurdistan. Furthermore, there has not be any major political party within Iraq to advocate for partition.

I think that we lacked a vision for the outcome in Iraq, aside from roses being thrown at our feet, and that lacking the defined outcome we couldn't achieve it.

The political advantage of not defining victory concretely is that no one can say we missed the goal, but at the same time not having defined it, it is nearly impossible to achieve.

I appreciate what you say about a partitioning of Iraq, but my sense of it is that its time has passed, some time ago.

Our exit strategy from Iraq is important issue and one that all the candidates should explore more thoroughly. I hope they do so here.

Kralmajales said...
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Art Jacobson said...


If you feel comfortable doing so could you e-mail me please?


Kralmajales said...
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