[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

A Federation For Iraq
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2004


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] The United States is now bogged down in a total morass in Iraq. Competing and conflicting demands by Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, aided and abetted by the ongoing terror, have stymied U.S. efforts to create a stable “democratic” government to which control can be transferred. It’s time to recognize that what we want is not attainable; and to search for workable new alternatives.

The reality is that the Sunnis and the Kurds will not agree to a governmental structure which is dominated by the Shiites and for good reason. Shiite control will mean the end of democracy and the beginning of theocracy. The Shiites are insisting on nothing less than control of the government to which they believe they are entitled with sixty percent of the population. The Kurds are demanding broad autonomy in their region of the country with the freedom to maintain their own military forces and to reject laws passed by the national government.

For its part, the United States has made it clear that it will not yield to the Shiite demands. Ayatollah Sistani’s call for immediate national elections has been rejected. Bremer said last week that the basic law of Iraq must be based on secular democratic principles and not draw on Islam as the sole source for legislation.

It’s time to become realistic. The only way in which these three warring factions can be kept together under a single ruler is by an authoritarian strongman like Saddam Hussein, or by overwhelming outside military control which the U.S. is exercising.

The day the U.S. withdraws from Iraq is the day the bloody civil war will start. Pitting Shiites against Sunnis; and Arabs against Kurds. It will be Lebanon and Yugoslavia all over again. Only worse. We’ve been there and seen that. So how do we untie this Gordian knot?

Let’s start with the fact that there are no good alternatives. We’re left with the best of what’s possible.

The more I ponder the question, the more persuaded I have become that some type of federation of three separate states: one in the predominantly Shiite region; one in the Sunni region; and the third in the Kurdish area of the north, all loosely joined together in a single nation of Iraq, deserves a careful vetting.

I’m not talking about splitting the country into three separate nations as in the case of Yugoslavia, but trying to have some of the advantages of a single nation while preserving the separateness of the communities. This can be done by creating three separate states within the Iraqi republic.

This would probably be acceptable to the Sunnis and the Kurds. As for the Shiites, we will have to make it clear to them that we are not sacrificing American lives to substitute their brand of repression for Saddam’s.

In some respects, the United States began as a federation. Our constitution heavily preserves the notion that the individual states have their own separate identity and authority to tax as well as legislate on many key issues.

In the last two hundred and twenty-five years, we have moved much more toward a single nation, but that has only occurred over time. On the other hand, we didn’t begin with the bitter hatreds that dominate the three communities in Iraq.

To be sure, the concept of a federation in Iraq presents many serious practical problems. Two of the leading ones are who gets the oil revenues, and whether there should there be single or separate armies.

On oil, there is no reason that revenues can’t be shared throughout the country. After all, the issue isn’t who controls the oil, but who retains the revenue. The U.N. could create an entity to collect and distribute net income from the Iraqi oil industry.

With respect to the military, each of the three states in the federation could initially have their own military responsible for keeping order within its territory. As long as all three communities buy into the initial concept, they shouldn’t be making war with each other. And if they do, it will be three armies squaring off against each other; not one army torturing minorities.

There would be many other difficult problems to resolve such as where to draw the borders among the three states and what happens to minorities within each state. Another serious issue is how to protect rights of women and secularists in the Shiite dominated state.

Of course the concept of the federation isn’t perfect. Nothing in this situation is. But it could be the one light at the end of a long tunnel that isn’t a freight train bearing down on the United States.