Thursday, September 27, 2007

Senate Votes For Plan For Eventual Breakup Of Iraq

Yesterday a bill from normally controversial Senator Sam Brownback passed on a vote of 75-23 that will likely lead to the eventual breakup of Iraq. The plan calls for a loosely confederated central government with three semi-autonomous states that are Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite. While this certainly seems like a step forward to resolving the difficult sectarian frictions in Iraq, sharing the oil revenues could remain a major problem as in the main Shiite state, almost all of the oil assets of Iraq remain.

In 1922, after the defeat of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, Winston Churchill called in British troops to occupy the land now know as Iraq when Britain discovered that large oil reserves existed in Iraq and three ethnic groups with nothing in common, Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis were grouped together. Britain sided with the Sunni minority at the time, but despite the destruction of entire villages by the British with bombings or mustard gas attacks, the violence continued until the 1958 rebellion in Iraq which forced the British out. The 1950's winessed the growth of the Baathist movement and Arab Socialism in Egypt, Syria and Iraq. Egyptian strongman Gamal Nasser was able to lose the Suez Canal dispute in 1956 to combined British, French and Israeli forces, yet was able to advance the Arab Socialist movement and strengthen Baathist parties all throughout the MidEast.

The history of the conflict between the Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam started soon after the death of Muhammad in 632AD. Rival groups of followers joined two different visions of Islam, with the father-in-law of Muhammad largely involved in the formation of the Shiite sect and only followers of Muhammad involved in the formation of the Sunni sect. Shiites tend to view the Sunni sect as not legitimate as it does not involve the formation by relatives of Muhammad and makes reconciliation by the two sects difficult.

Given the complexities of the sectarian riff between the Sunni and Shiite sects, it is only likely that Iraq will face a breakup only too similiar to that of Yugoslavia into several states.