November 25, 2003


The Three-State Solution (LESLIE H. GELB, 11/25/03, NY Times)

President Bush's new strategy of transferring power quickly to Iraqis, and his critics' alternatives, share a fundamental flaw: all commit the United States to a unified Iraq, artificially and fatefully made whole from three distinct ethnic and sectarian communities. That has been possible in the past only by the application of overwhelming and brutal force. [...]

The only viable strategy...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.

Almost immediately, this would allow America to put most of its money and troops where they would do the most good quickly — with the Kurds and Shiites. The United States could extricate most of its forces from the so-called Sunni Triangle, north and west of Baghdad, largely freeing American forces from fighting a costly war they might not win. American officials could then wait for the troublesome and domineering Sunnis, without oil or oil revenues, to moderate their ambitions or suffer the consequences.

This is okay as far as it goes, but raises the question of why the Kurds and Shi'ites should tolerate a Sunni state in their midst, rather than driving them south into Saudi Arabia and/or West to Syria.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 25, 2003 8:56 AM

The question raises a possible answer: Shi'ites and Kurds may not want to throw away their lives fighting Sunnis if they already have their own states. Hoping that someone will impose a Punic Peace on central Iraq is a pipe dream.

Posted by: Peter Caress at November 25, 2003 10:40 AM

Makes some sense to me. The main problem would be keeping Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey out of the game completely. A substantially stated threat against such interference would be necessary, made by the U.S. unilaterally, to be believed.

Posted by: Genecis at November 25, 2003 11:32 AM

Except the Sunnis wouldn't be in their midst, anymore than Oregon is in the midst of California and Washington.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 25, 2003 11:56 AM


Yeah, new states with hated neighbors are notorious for leaving them in peace, huh?

Posted by: oj at November 25, 2003 11:58 AM

Or the Poles are in the midst of the Russians.

Posted by: oj at November 25, 2003 12:00 PM

The scenario you're lusting after, OJ, would be not be something like the Serbs ethnically cleansing Albanians from Kosovo; it'd be closer to Serbia successfully occupying the entirety of Albania and cleansing out all the Albanians there, too.

I think a war between Shi'ites and Sunnis over secession or borders is highly likely. But an outcome in which Shi'ites completely destroy Sunni Iraq and drive all the Sunnis into Saudi Arabia or Syria is preposterous.

Posted by: Peter Caress at November 25, 2003 2:03 PM


Posted by: oj at November 25, 2003 2:10 PM

Preposterous, because Sunni shoot back. Including the Sunni in Syria and Saudi Arabia.

The Idea of three states with the appropriate distribution of oil resources makes perfect since which is of course the reason the State Dept never considered it.

Posted by: h-man at November 25, 2003 2:24 PM


Was it your impression that no one returned Serbian fire or our fire when we cleansed the Indians? Superior civilizations often have to brutally root out more primitive ones.

Posted by: oj at November 25, 2003 2:32 PM

The problem is that the Sunnis are "superior" to the Shi'ites in terms of their ability to organize military force. Obviously, this is highly relative since both groups are really bad at it compared to, say, the Turks, but the Shi'ites have a remarkable history of back-stabbing each other and of consequent military futility.

Posted by: Steve Sailer at November 26, 2003 4:04 PM