Friday, June 20, 2014

Sorry Joe Biden

I get why people think that dividing Iraq into three states ("Sunni", "Shia", and "Kurdish", is what they are usually called, even though the Kurds are mostly Sunni). The three groups have become very factionalized, they each have their own militias and political parties, and they are mostly grouped in distinct geographical areas.

But I don't understand why so many people seem to think that splitting Iraq would necessarily make things better. Carving Iraq up into ethnic-religious states would create as many problems as it would solve. I'm thinking of new problems like: where the border should be, what to do with cities (like Baghdad) which substantially mixed populations, where groups that aren't Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs or Kurds would fit in (e.g. Chaldean Christians, the Yadzis, and the Turkomen), how to divide the current holdings of the central Iraq government among the three new states, and so on.

There's this weird sense that because certain groups (like ISIS and the Kurdish Pesh Murga) are fighting to divide the country that means that if the country is divided, all fighting will stop. I really don't think that is the case. Dividing Iraq would certainly alter the current situation. But it is far from clear that it would make things any better.