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Should Iraq Be Partitioned?


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. There's been much talk this week about possible changes in U.S. strategy in Iraq. President Bush told reporters that the U.S. was shifting its tactics but not its goals. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the top U.S. military commander there called on Iraqi leaders to achieve specific political and security milestones. But a day later Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki responded that no one has the right to impose a timetable on his government. Adeed Dawisha was born in Iraq but he came to the United States as a child. He now teaches political science at Miami University of Ohio and joins us from member station WMUB in Oxford, Ohio. Thank you so much for being with us.

Professor ADEED DAWISHA (Miami University of Ohio): Hello.


SIMON: Let me get the benefit of your experience and analysis. From your point of view, Professor, would more or less U.S. troops make any difference?

Prof. DAWISHA: I'm not really sure that an increase in numbers would really make that much difference. What we have now in Iraq is almost a kind of a failed state, a state that is gradually crumbling into three very distinct parts. If it was just a matter of military operations, rooting out, say, the Sunni al-Qaida-type terrorists groups and the Shiite militias, then maybe more troops would do it. But there are all kind of indications that's what's happening in Iraq is much larger than that. Whether putting more troops in there was in any way going to change that is, at least for me, it doesn't look as though it will do the trick.

SIMON: When you talk about changing the situation, there are some people, you know, who think that the situation is beyond change.

Prof. DAWISHA: The major problem that has been happening in Iraq certainly over the last year and particularly over the last seven months is a de facto partitioning of the country. This is not just a matter of the various militias fighting each other, but an actual migration of people from parts of Iraq to others for no other reason but to be with their own sectarian and ethnic groups, to the extent that lately we think that something like half a million Iraqis have actually migrated internally, or have been displaced internally. That tells me that Iraq is going through a major and fundamental change.

SIMON: Does the Iraqi government as presently constituted with the degree of support it gets have the ability and the authority to change that or the will to change that?


Prof. DAWISHA: I honestly don't think it has the will to change it. Nouri al-Maliki belongs to Al-Da'wah Party, which in a way is allied with the Sadrists. The Sadrists are the ones, through their Mahdi Army, who are going into Shiite areas and forcing all the Sunnis out, basically replicating what the Sunni terrorist groups are doing in the Sunni areas, and they're forcing all the Shiites out. So in a way these groups are the ones that are perpetrating this kind of gradual displacement and internal migration that's going on in Iraq. And I'm not sure, therefore, that Nouri al-Maliki has either the power, or course, but also the real will to take on the militias and stop this de facto partitioning of Iraq that we're seeing on the ground.

SIMON: Professor, I don't mean to put you on the spot, and it's a totally personal question you can duck.

Prof. DAWISHA: Yeah.

SIMON: But do you still have family in Iraq?

Prof. DAWISHA: Yes.

SIMON: And first, of course, how are they doing? And do they want to be part of Iraq or do they want to be part of a state that splits apart?

Prof. DAWISHA: Personally, I come from a Christian family. My family lives in a Sunni enclave. There was a grocery store just opposite the house of my family that had been run by a Shiite for over 20 years. And then my uncle, my elderly uncle, tells me on the phone a bomb was placed in front of the grocery store and as a result of that the owner of the grocery actually left and went to the Shiites. And he said that in such a matter of fact way, as though it's the normal development of events. And so when he kind of noticed that there was a long silence on my part, since I didn't see any - I didn't hear any outrage or any emotion, he simply said, well, I think it's better that he should go with his own people. And that statement in a sense suggests to me the way attitudes are being shaped in Iraq. He's better off with his own people. And with his own people is not the Iraqi people any longer, but it's the Shiite people.

SIMON: Give us an idea as to what you think will - because we've had an awfully bloody month here in October, would reduce the level of violence for November and December.

Prof. DAWISHA: I would say that actually for the short term it is almost impossible to reduce the violence. If it's violence against the Americans, then basically it's very easy. Do what we did, say, three months ago: take our troops out of the streets of Baghdad and let the Iraqis tackle the insurgency in Baghdad. If we're talking about violence against Iraqis, it seems to me that it makes a lot of sense for the embassy to begin to start a dialogue with the various groups, at least with the acknowledgment that there may be a partitioning of Iraq in the future of that country, and try to kind of get them to at least think about various ways in which if this were to happen, it would happen peacefully rather than as a result of a very bloody civil war. Let them sit around a table and let them at least discuss the possibility of dividing Iraq into three kinds, how the resources of the country could be distributed. Let the Sunnis be sure that if there is a partition of Iraq, then some of the resource of oil which is concentrated in the south and in the north will come their way. Come up with some kind of a constitutional idea about how this loose confederation can be created. But they should start talking about these kind of issues now in order to avert the partitioning of Iraq occurring as a result of a very bloody and violent occurrence.

SIMON: Adeed Dawisha, who was born in Iraq and is now a professor of political science at Miami University of Ohio. Professor Dawisha, thank you very much.

Prof. DAWISHA: Thank you very much, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.