The Trouble With Partition

More and more of my favorite people on "our side" of the national security debate seem to me to be edging in favor of the Biden-Gelb Plan for Iraq, involving a quasi-partition of the country into three pieces with a skeletal national government left behind to do foreign policy and distribute oil revenues according to an equitable pre-agreed formula. What's more, if this article is correct, a number of Republicans are prepared to use this as a fallback position in case the midterms go very poorly and backing the Bush Iraq strategy becomes untenable.

I keep feeling like there's an extremely basic problem with this idea, namely that it lacks necessary support on the ground in Iraq. Kurdish leaders have no problem, conceptually with de facto partition, but they already enjoys the fruits of de facto partition plus they mostly have control over their oil. Sunni Arabs, who you might think would be the main beneficiaries of Gelb-Biden, don't like the idea and never have. Indeed, one of the main Sunni Arab complaints about the current constitution is that it went too far in the direction of decentralization. The Shiite community is split with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq tending to favor decentralization, the Sadr Movement tending to be vehemently opposed, and the al-Dawa people somewhere in the middle.

As long as that's the case, I just don't see how the President of the United States and the head of CENTCOM are supposed to unilaterally announce that "we" are partitioning Iraq. Only Iraqis can partition Iraq. If enough Iraqi factions could agree on partition -- or on anything else -- that would be great, but absent political agreement there's simply nothing to be done from the outside and no reason for so many of our soldiers to be stuck in the middle of a dangerous situation that's beyond their capacity to control.