Cutting Off the Sunnis to Spite Our Face?
WaPo fronts a Robin Wright report that the Bush administration is considering writing off Iraq’s Sunni population and just salvaging a Shiite state with a quasi-autonomous Kurd region in the north.
The proposal, put forward by the State Department as part of a crash White House review of Iraq policy, follows an assessment that the ambitious U.S. outreach to Sunni dissidents has failed. U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that their reconciliation efforts may even have backfired, alienating the Shiite majority and leaving the United States vulnerable to having no allies in Iraq, according to sources familiar with the State Department proposal.
Some insiders call the proposal the “80 percent” solution, a term that makes other parties to the White House policy review cringe. Sunni Arabs make up about 20 percent of Iraq’s 26 million people.
On the one hand, if reconciliation between two groups is impossible, writing off the much smaller group–especially if it has a history of repressing the other–may be the lesser of evils. Then again, the whole point of the post-regime change occupation/stabilization operation/counterinsurgency effort has been a neoconservative vision of a democratic Iraq that would serve as a shining beacon to the other Arab states. All of which are Sunni.
Not to mention the fact that the Saudis are threatening to intervene if the Sunnis are hung out to dry, setting up the very real possibility of a wider regional war.
To be fair, there is no indication in the piece that the proposal has any support within the administration, merely that they are “considering” it. This may just be something that has been thrown against the wall to see if it sticks.
I must say, the State Department is the last place from which I’d have expected to see this kind of suggestion emanating. Even more intriguing, State Department counselor Phil Zelikow is the author of this idea. He’s a smart guy and hardly on the lunatic fringe. I’d be really interested in hearing/reading more of his rationale.
Especially ironic is that the military seems to be solidly against this.
Opponents of the proposal cite three dangers. Without reconciliation, military commanders fear that U.S. troops would be fighting the symptoms of Sunni insurgency without any prospect of getting at the causes behind it — notably the marginalization of the once-powerful minority. U.S. troops would be left fighting in a political vacuum, not a formula for either long-term stabilization or reducing attacks on American targets.
Rather an understatement, I’d say.