Independent war correspondent Michael Yon emails Glenn Reynolds:
All the talk back in America of partitioning Iraq is a mistake. There is some desire by the Kurds, but overall Iraqis seem very much against the idea of partition.
There seems to be a lot of confusion about what exactly “all the talk back in America” is really about. There are at least three different proposals out there that involve devolving power in Iraq to regional institutions. The Biden-Gelb proposal, as Biden has tried to explain, is more like “federalism” than “partition” as normally understood, and Biden and Gelb themselves prefer the former term (though their plan is often refered to by others as a type of “soft partition”; I think I’ve probably done this myself). The Joseph-O’Hanlon Brookings paper, which I’ve more or less endorsed, is properly labeled “soft partition” by its authors — it involves internal borders with security checkpoints and protection for, and aid to, internally-displaced refugees. A few commentators, though not very many, have endorse a “hard” partition — that is, splitting Iraq into three countries. I get the impression that in Iraq, lots of people assume that we’re talking about the latter proposal in Washington, when in fact very few of us actually are (and for good reason — it’s hard to see how the Sunnis would quietly go along with sacrificing their claim to most of Iraq’s oil).
And anyway, all the interest in devolving power from Iraq’s government is driven by the inability of the national government thusfar to achieve a reconciliation based on the mutual assumption that neither Sunnis nor Shiites will win dominance over the whole country. Talk of reducing parliament’s power could conceivably scare them into reaching such a reconciliation. If it does, it will be hard to argue that merely talking about devolving power from parliament was a mistake.
My previous writings on this topic are collected here.