Historical Myths of a Divided Iraq

January 15, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment

by Reidar Visser


Calls in US circles for a ‘soft partition’ of Iraq along ethno-sectarian lines

raise myriad ethical and practical questions, but there is a more fundamental

historical problem.1 One of the key arguments of those advocating

partition is that Iraq is an ‘artificial creation’, but there is little evidence that

the sectarian entities being considered are any less artificial, or that Iraqis

themselves have ever advocated ‘Shiistans’ and ‘Sunnistans’.


History (or what is seen as history) plays a formidable role in the competition

of ideas in US policymaking circles. In a recent interview, Leslie Gelb,

president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and a key proponent

of soft partition, said

the British considered running the country more or less how the Ottomans had, with a

strong central government but with the country divided, in effect, into three

provinces: Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni, each having a different governor.2


None of these contentions are historically correct.


If such errors were eliminated from the partitionist argument, the debate on the question of dividing Iraq would change. Analysts would look with fresh eyes at events in Iraq

since the February 2006 Samarra bombing, and would be better able to distinguish

between genuine historical trends and violent, but short-lived, episodic outbursts.





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