A reader in Iraq writes:
You couldn't be more wrong with the partition thing or your view that there is no hope for sectarian reconciliation in Iraq. The partitioning of Iraq is the single biggest threat to its future. I'll explain that in a second. First, the Sunnis and Shias are well on their way reconciling. Here are some points:
(1) Sunnis political and militia type groups of every type have been engaging extensively with Shia political groups and militias. It has been going on at all level for some time. It is already extensive and is increasing. To take just one example, the Awakening group (Sahawa al-Iraq: the people who did more than anything else to clear AQI out of Anbar) has been meeting and cooperating extensively with the largest Shia party in Iraq (ISCI which also controls the Badr militia and is strongly associated with Iran) for about six months now. There are plenty of other examples.
(2) Any Shia group with ties to Iran is racing to distance themselves from Iran because it makes it impossible for them to cooperate with Sunnis (the previously mentioned ISCI/Badr is just one example). Every major Shia group is doing this right now.
(3) There is a widespread recognition in Iraq that sectarian parties have failed. There have been a number of initiatives designed to create non-ethnic and non-sectarian parties. In fact there is a greater than 50-50 chance that the political parties will suddenly realign themselves into non-sectarian blocks. Right now for example you have two major Sunni parties in al-Anbar, but they don't get along with each other. However at the national level they are aligned because they are both Sunni. What I predict will happen is that these two Sunni parties will join separate blocks each of which includes a Kurdish, Sunni and Shia part. The same dynamic seems to be happening elsewhere. I also predict that when the shift happens it will happen pretty rapidly. The Iraqis have tried a number of times to do this and each time they get closer and closer to making it happen (once one such block it formed it will be politically very powerful, so everybody else will likely be forced to join a counter block)
The partitioning of Iraq has the serious potential to derail almost all the progress made so far. At least 70% of the Shia are against it and about 95% of the Sunni Arabs are. The reasons why the Sunnis are so against it even though they are the runt of the Kurd-Sunni-Shia litter are the following (in no particular order):
a) They are afraid that partitioning will derail all the progress they have made. They feel that things are improving rapidly and are anxious for it to continue.
b) They are afraid of what will happen in mixed ethnic areas on the borders of any partitioning.
c) Every Sunni tribe has a Shia minority. Typically they are only a few thousand members and they live in Shia areas, but there is a strong tribal attachment. There are also strong historical ties in many cases. Many Sunni tribes in Anbar have a strong historical connection to Shia tribes in Karbala for example.
d) They are afraid it will destroy trade between areas and hence limit economic development.
e) They are afraid it will lead to wars between different partitions similar to when Yugoslavia broke up.
f) They are fear a partition will open the door to Iranian takeover of the South. (The Shias in the south have the same fear incidentally)
g) They are afraid they will get cheated out of a complete share of the oil revenue.
h) They are afraid it will end the strong reconciliation sentiment that currently exits.
i) They are afraid it will make Iraq weaker in regards to their neighbors.
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