All Writings
November 28, 2006

Preventing Genocide in Iraq

To prevent genocide in Iraq on the scale of the genocide in Rwanda between the Tutsis and the Hutus, the Bush administration must move swiftly to divide Iraq into three main self-rule entities with loose federal ties. Neither the insurgency nor the sectarian killing will end unless the Sunnis can govern themselves. The Bush administration must use every ounce of leverage it has to push for such a solution before it is too late.


To end the carnage the Bush administration must address the root causes behind the ever escalating civil war which has swept Iraq. The sooner the administration stops pushing for a western-style democracy and in that context try to preserve the so-called democratic national unity government, the sooner it will stop the fast approaching precipice. Moreover, it must, by now, be clear to the Bush administration that there is no military solution. No Iraqi or American forces will be able to end the insurgency or disarm the numerous militias. The violence will continue to rage because for the Sunnis it has become a matter of survival itself. The history of Iraq and the relationship between the main factions, the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds make the option of creating three separate entities the only viable option that will end to the violence and here is why:

First, the history of hatred and animosity between the Shiite and the Sunnis in Iraq predates the current conflict; it goes back centuries but it has been steadily intensifying following the creation of modern Iraq in 1922. The Shiites have suffered unimaginable oppression and abuse by the Sunni minority, especially under the ruthless reign of Saddam Hussein. Revenge and retribution have become engrained in the culture and there is practically nothing the administration can do to change it.

Second, having held power in Iraq from the day of its inception, the Sunnis have not accepted the fact that they are a minority and may never regain power again. Sitting in a coalition government where the Shiite majority can railroad any legislation they wish makes the Sunnis feel complicit in their own political demise. Sooner or later they will permanently walk away and regardless of how much pressure the Bush administration brings to bear to keep the government together, the current Iraqi coalition will not last.

Third, the indiscriminate killing and the brutality inflicted on each other has virtually destroyed any vestiges of civility and trust between the two sides. The fight for survival itself became the motivation and therefore all means to ensure survival, especially for the Sunnis, have become justified. Moreover, fearing for their lives, a self-imposed sectarian separation became routine in mixed areas in Baghdad and elsewhere where hundreds of thousands relocated to safer areas to live with their own brethren, creating a de-facto all-Sunni or all-Shiite enclaves.

Iraq is already divided. The Kurds have been enjoying complete self-rule for the past 15 years and they are not about to surrender what they have gained in blood. Notwithstanding their majority status, the Shiites are moving toward establishing their own independent provinces and are determined to hold fast to the oil beneath their land in the south. In any case, the Iraqi constitution allows for the creation of independent provinces, permitting each group to enact their own laws and build their own institutions.

The only way the Sunnis will accept their minority status is if they can govern themselves with a guaranteed equitable share of oil or its revenue. Only an economically viable and politically independent Sunni entity will provide the Sunnis the assurances they need to give up the fight. Otherwise, however dim the prospect of winning may be, they will continue to battle the Shiites because they see no other viable option. The artificial political arrangement the Bush administration has pursued to politically co-opt the Sunnis has done nothing to change the psychological disposition between the Shiite and Sunnis which was nurtured by decades, nay centuries, of acrimony, hostility and distrust.

As it considers a new course of action in Iraq, the Bush administration must realize that Iraq has been broken along fault lines that have always been there but the administration willfully ignored. The unfolding carnage reflects not only the current tragic state of affairs but it should indicate how much worse the situation will be if the administration stubbornly clings to the notion that there can be a different outcome.

Not all Sunnis would settle for a much smaller piece of the pie, but then again, they can be made to understand the pitfalls of the unending violence. The army, the police and all other internal security forces are dominated by the Shiites and buttressed from within and outside by several Shiite militias making reversal of fortune for the Sunnis extremely unlikely. Dividing Iraq with loose federal ties will provide the Sunnis and the Shiites the same condition that exists for the Kurds: the opportunity to lead their lives as they see fit and cooperate under federal settings where cooperation benefits them.

The Bush administration has been warned time and again before and after the war about the unintended consequences of the Iraq war but paid no heed and remained stuck in a failed policy. Iraq has disintegrated and genocide of unimaginable scale looms high. The Bush administration must act immediately to prevent that from happening before it is too late.