How Do You Solve A Problem Like Iraq’s Sunnis?
Up front confession: I haven’t a clue how to answer the title question. The bigger problem is it doesn’t seem any one else does. Until we have a reasonable answer to that question, just about any military action is doomed to fail over the long term.
Here’s what President Obama said in his address to the nation about the Sunni population in Iraq.
We’ll also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL’s control.
Is there any evidence that these Sunni communities want to be freed from ISIL? And even if they do because they are tired of ISIL’s style of governance that doesn’t mean they want to live under the writ of the Shia dominated government in Baghdad.
The President can talk all he wants about the importance of an “inclusive” national government but that doesn’t mean the people on the ground share his desires. The Sunni minority ruled Iraq for decades through the Baathist dictatorship. In the years since Saddam’s overthrow the Sunnis have made it quite clear they are not interested in an arrangement which sees their status diminished to match their actual representation in the country.
One potential solution is partitioning the country but that leads to some serious problems and require an almost miraculous series of events to have a chance at working.
The areas the Sunnis would control have almost no oil reserves compared to the Kurds in the north and the Shia in the south.
If Sunni Iraq became a separate nation what would prevent it from being what it already is…a terrorist haven that will destabilize the rest of Iraq and pose a danger to the west?
How do you cut a political deal with people who have no interest in what you are offering and know you really can’t even deliver that much? We could crush them militarily like we did Germany and Japan to the point where their will to fight is simply beaten out of them but there’s zero will to do that in the US.
There’s no reason to believe that Iraq’s Sunni population is interested in building a nice, quiet little desert state with almost no natural resources. Equally, there’s no reason to believe that Iraq’s Sunnis will find a way to live as the red headed step-child to the country’s Shia majority.
ISIL is a symptom of the problems we face in Iraq, not the underlying disease. Even if we could make ISIL disappear tomorrow, we’d still be facing a crisis in Iraq we have no idea how to solve. The 2003 invasion of Iraq unleashed forces we didn’t understand and couldn’t control. What we are facing today is the cost of our Iraq gamble going bust.