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FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: But first, here’s my take. To answer the question, what should America do in Iraq, we should try first to understand what’s going on in the region through a broader prism. If you would look to the Middle East 15 years ago you would have seen a string of strikingly similar regimes across the region, from Libya and Tunisia in the west to Syria and Iraq in the east. They were all repressive dictatorships.

They were all secular in the sense that they did not derive their legitimacy from religious identity or authority. Historically they had been supported by outside powers. First the British and French, then the superpowers, which meant that these rulers were more about pleasing patrons abroad rather than carrying favor at home. And they had secure uncontested borders.

Today across the region that structure of authority has collapsed from Libya to Syria, and people are reaching for their deeper, older identities — Shia, Sunni — distrusting that they would be safe under anyone else’s rule.

In Iraq and elsewhere, no amount of American military power can undo this tidal trend and put Humpty Dumpty back together. Why did it happen? The old order was probably unsustainable. It rested on extreme suppression which was producing extreme opposition movements. It also rested on super power patronage. And then one super power collapsed and the others’ support dictators started wavering.

The countries with significant sectarian divides and in which minority groups ruled — Iraq and Syria — became the most vulnerable. The Iraq war was the crucial trigger and the American occupation needlessly exacerbated sectarian identities rather than building national identities. But let’s be honest, Iraq’s Shia, like the Sunni Islamist of Syria had been brutality suppressed by dictators for decades.

It is always going to be hard for them to sign up peacefully to share power with their former torementors. Maliki’s reign of terror against the Sunnis has certainly ensured that the Sunnis will never really trust him and they are likely never to trust the parties he represents to rule over them.

As Washington supports the Baghdad government, it will have to be extremely careful not to be seen as taking sides in a sectarian conflict and to press for political reform and inclusiveness even as it offers Baghdad military support.

But Washington should recognize that national harmony in Iraq, everyone singing Kumbaya, is highly unlikely. It needs a plan B. Call it an enclave strategy. The world might have to accept that Iraq is turning into a country of enclaves and work to ensure that these regions stay as stable, terror free and open as is possible.

The Kurdish area, now bolstered by having captured the vital city of Kirkuk, is already a stable success story. It will be possible to work with countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan to influence the Sunni groups in the middle of the country and purge them of terrorists and empower moderate Sunnis.

Now there will be enclaves where ISIS and similar groups gain some strength. In these areas Washington will have to use drones, counterintelligence and occasional special forces strikes just as it does in parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. To scholar Joshua Landis’ pointed that during the first half of the 20th century, much of Europe, especially Eastern Europe, went from being multi-ethnic to monoethic. One-third of Poland was non-Polish before World War II. One quarter of Czechoslovakia was minorities.

Then there was what Landis calls the great sorting out. The Middle East has been going through its own version of this process. America can’t stop a trend like this. What it can do is try to limit the fallout, support those who believe in reconciliation and protect itself and its friends.




Posted June 23, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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