More on Why Partitioning Iraq is a Very Bad Idea
Jack Straw alluded to the dangers of a break-up of Iraq in a news conference in Baghdad on Wednesday, and said the only way to forestall such scenarios was to transfer sovereignty back to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible. (al-Sharq al-Awsat).
Journalist Nir Rosen, writing from Baghdad, replies to Gelb’s suggestion that Iraq be divided along ethnic lines in the Asia Times:
“International law prohibits an occupying power from altering the structure of the occupied country, let alone dividing it up. This perhaps is not a good argument because international law was ignored throughout this conflict and continues to be flouted as the occupying powers impose their economic philosophies on Iraq . . . Gelb views Sunnis as the “bad guys” American foreign policy always seems to need and seeks to punish them further until they behave, a course of action sure to fulfill his prophecy and indeed make all Sunnis the enemy. What “ambitions” is he referring to? Shouldn’t Sunnis be encouraged to participate in the new Iraq? Shouldn’t they feel it is theirs as well? Most of the resistance in Iraq is spontaneous and a reaction to the occupation, not part of some Sunni conspiracy. Iraq’s Shi’ites are as eager to see American troops leave as the Sunnis are. Even moderate Shi’ite clerics have recently called for an immediate American withdrawal . . . “
And veteran journalist Helena Cobban argues against it in her Just World News, “For several reasons. The first and most serious one is that the US has no right simply to split up Iraq into three states or make any other such serious changes in the country’s administration. No right whatsoever. The Geneva-based International Committee for the Red Cross is the body which, under a series of international treaties, is the international depository for the body of “laws of war” called “international humanitarian law” (IHL). Therefore, the ICRC’s commentaries on various aspects of IHL– including the Hague Regulations, the Geneva Conventions, etc.– are considered authoritative. In a useful factsheet on the rights and duties of an occupying power, the ICRC notes:
The Occupying Power cannot change the status of the territory it occupies. Though it becomes the de facto administrator of that territory, the Occupying Power must maintain and preserve the economic and social structures and respect the customs. It can amend the laws and regulations in force in the territory only to the extent needed to enable it to meet its obligations under the Fourth Convention, and to maintain orderly government and ensure its own security.