Thursday 31 January 2013

Syrian opposition chief stands in the line of fire

Moaz al-Khatib
Moaz al-Khatib is today facing calls to step down as head of the Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces over his “unilateral offer” to negotiate with representatives of President Bashar al-Assad.
The resignation calls come after the Syrian National Council (SNC), a key component of the National Coalition, openly challenged Khatib’s conditional proposal.
The overt controversy broke out soon after Khatib posted Tuesday a statement on his personal Facebook page saying he would “sit face to face with Syrian regime representatives in Cairo or Tunis or Istanbul.”
He made the talks offer conditional on the Damascus government first releasing 160,000 detainees and renewing or extending for two years all Syrian exiles’ passports. (See last night’s post, “War of words breaks out in Syrian opposition ranks.”)
“Speaking in a personal capacity does not change the fact Khatib heads the National Coalition,” says Anas al-Abdah, a member of the SNC and chairman of the Movement for Justice and Development in Syria.
He tells today’s edition of Saudi Arabia’s leading daily Asharq Alawsat, “[Khatib] should have resigned before broaching such a sensitive issue. As head of the National Coalition, he should have consulted its members first.
“By failing to do so as Coalition leader, he proved to be short of political and leadership maturity and lacking political experience…
“I urge him to reconsider his position as Coalition leader.”
The SNC’s Ibrahim Merei, whose London-based Barada TV has been focusing on issues of democracy, human rights, youth activism and civil society empowerment since April 2009, tells Asharq Alawsat:
“I stand by the revolutionary forces… Whoever represents them should preclude direct or indirect talks with the regime...
“Khatib’s remarks are a betrayal of the blood of people killed in Syria. I urge him to retract... If he is coming under international pressure, he can simply pull out.”
A third reaction comes from Obeida Faris, head of the Arab Foundation for Development and Citizenship (AFDC).
He tells the paper: “Syrians sacrificed over 60,000 martyrs, more than two million refugees and exiles as well as tens of thousands of detainees. This was not to win a loaf of bread or renew passports.
“Passports were denied to tens of thousands of Syrians for several decades. But that didn’t drive them to sit down with a bloodstained regime that committed more crimes than any other serial killer in history.
“I can understand the humanitarian pressure the National Coalition leader is coming under… But concessions need not exceed red lines set by the National Coalition.”
Faris was specifically referring to two provisions in the agreement that founded the National Coalition in Doha last November.
The two provisions are: “(1) The sides agree to bring down the regime and all its symbols and mainstays, to disband the regime’s security services and to call to account those responsible for crimes against Syrians, and (2) The Coalition commits not to engage in any dialogue or negotiation with the regime.” (See my November 11, 2012, post, “The Syrian opposition’s Doha agreement.”)
Editorially, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi, Abdelbari Atwan, today writes of “Khatib’s bombshell shattering the Syrian scene.”
Sheikh al-Khatib is neither ignorant nor naïve, says Atwan. He only aired his initiative after taking stock of information and facts gathered at two international conferences he attended this month. They are the January 9-10 meeting hosted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to galvanize international support for a Syrian-led transition to a stable democratic country and the January 28 “Friends of Syria” conference in Paris.
“He heard the opinions of both guests and hosts at the two venues. And the opinions simply dashed his hopes, chiefly as regards the supply of qualitative weapons to the opposition.”  
Atwan continues:
“Multiple reasons must have prompted Khatib to air his initiative, which could see him resign after coming in for a lot of shameless flak, or which could see a breakup of the Syrian opposition with the SNC choosing to opt out of the National Coalition.”
Atwan encapsulates the multiple reasons as follows:
1. The definitive rejection by the West -- chiefly the United States – of the idea of arming the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups coupled with an explicit warning to the Gulf States not to fund or arm the rebels.
2. Barack Obama’s upbeat proclamation in his second inaugural speech earlier this month that “a decade of war is now ending.”
3.  The Syria crisis stagnating after the regime’s failure to overcome the armed opposition and the latter’s inability to bring down the regime by force.
4. A misreading by the opposition’s Arab and other backers of the regime’s resilience and Russia and Iran’s unbounded support of Assad.
5. A rise in the clout of Jihadists on the ground, especially in northern Syria, and their success in recruiting thousands of young Syrians and in offering social welfare services in areas under their control, which is what the Taliban did earlier in Afghanistan.
6. The acquiescence of most Arab countries supportive of the armed opposition that a peaceful transition is the way out of the crisis. The consequence is acceptance of the regime – albeit for a short period – and opening the door of dialogue with it.
7. Mothballing of the Syria file by the Arab League and its foreign ministers.
“Sheikh Moaz al-Khatib grasps all that,” Atwan writes. “But, above all,  he realizes that the international community has started to address the Syria crisis as an issue of refugees, rather than the cause of a people seeking reform, democratic change and the removal of a dictatorship.
“The just-concluded conference in Kuwait of international donors for Syria, where more than a billion dollars were pledged for Syrian refugees, is proof of the new turnaround.
“The focusing on humanitarian and apolitical aspects by Arab and foreign countries under the sponsorship of the United Nations and its secretary-general evokes memories of a similar approach 65 years ago to the Palestine Question. That’s when the ‘Question’ became one of refugees deserving relief aid in their host countries…”

Wednesday 30 January 2013

War of words breaks out in Syrian opposition ranks

A serious war of words has broken out in the open among the topmost political echelons of the Syrian opposition.
The Syrian National Council (SNC) today publicly challenged a statement made overnight by Moaz el-Khatib, head of the Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, of which the SNC is the main component.
The SNC’s current chairman George Sabra is also vice-president of the Coalition.
The overt controversy broke out soon after Moaz el-Khatib posted overnight a statement on his personal Facebook page saying:
“I learned through the mass media the regime in Syria wants to open a dialogue with the opposition and the interior minister is inviting opposition leaders to return to Damascus.  
“Frankly, there’s no trust in a regime that kills children, attacks breadlines, bombs universities, destroys Syria’s infrastructure and commits gruesome massacres such as its latest in Aleppo, which is unparalleled in its savagery.
“The revolution goes on and time-wasting is over. But since the Syrian citizen is in such an unprecedented crisis -- and as a sign of goodwill in the quest for a political solution and in order to pave the way for a transition stage that would spare added bloodshed – I declare that I am prepared to sit face to face with Syrian regime representatives in Cairo or Tunis or Istanbul.
“Since the Syrian people’s freedom is non-negotiable, my preliminary condition to sit with regime representatives is:
“1. The release of 160,000 detainees, starting with the females and those held by Air Force Intelligence and in Sednaya prison, and
‘2. A directive to all regime embassies to either issue new passports to all Syrians whose passports have expired or extend for two years the validity of their existing ones.”
The SNC retorted today through an official statement posted in turn on its own Facebook page saying:
“Reference the remarks of Sheikh Ahmed Moaz el-Khatib, head of the Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, in which he mentions a conditional offer for negotiations with the Syrian regime, the SNC affirms that the remarks do not express the SNC position and are incompatible with the National Council’s statutes and Doha founding charter. These categorically rule out negotiations with the criminal regime and call for its removal along with all its symbols.
“The SNC reiterates its rejection of any settlement or negotiation with the Syrian regime. (Signed, SNC).”
Moaz el-Khatib threw down the gauntlet within hours, saying in part on his personal Facebook page:
“We don’t negotiate on the regime’s survival, but on its departure at the least possible cost in blood and destruction. But that was my personal opinion and I stand by my right to express it.
“Figures, organizations and states finding [my] view ill-suited have the right to express theirs too.
“The National Coalition’s provisional political bureau will be meeting tomorrow (Thursday) and will determine the National Coalition’s official position…”

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Scores summarily executed in Aleppo

The bodies of dozens of young men, all apparently summarily executed, have been found in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
At least 65 bodies were found on the banks of Quaik River, which runs seasonally in the western district of Bustan al-Qasr, activists on the ground and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.
Most had their hands tied behind their backs and gunshot wounds to the head.
Activists posted video footage of the gruesome discovery on YouTube.
It showed a large number of bodies strewn in and around the banks of the Quaik, which skirts the western side of Aleppo.
BBC News said the bodies, which were caked in grey mud, showed signs of rigor mortis. There were also signs of blood having poured from many of the heads.
“Rigor mortis, a stiffening of the limbs of a corpse, begins around three hours after death, peaks at around 12 hours and is completely dissipated some two days later.”
A captain in the rebel Free Syrian Army said some of those who had been killed were just teenagers.
He told AFP news agency that many bodies were still in the water and the death toll might rise to 100.
People were gathering at the bank to see if they could find their missing relatives, AFP reported.
The district of Bustan al-Qasr has been hotly contested since fighting broke out in Aleppo last July, the BBC's Jim Muir reports from Beirut.
Since July, the city has been more or less divided equally between government and rebel forces, with neither side apparently able to push the other out, despite constant clashes, Muir adds.
Obama: “Assad regime WILL come to an end”
In the hours of the discovery, the White House released a new video from U.S. President Barack Obama announcing he has approved an additional $155 million in aid to the Syrian people, assuring them, “The Assad regime WILL come to an end.”
His full statement on video:
“For nearly two years, the Assad regime has waged a brutal war against the Syrian people—murdering innocent men, women and children, in their homes, in bread lines, and at universities.
“In the face of this barbarism, the United States has joined with nations around the world in calling for an end to the Assad regime and a transition that leads to a peaceful, inclusive and democratic Syria, where the rights of all Syrians are protected.  We’ve worked to isolate Assad and his regime; impose sanctions that starve the regime of funds; recognize the Syrian Opposition Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people; call for accountability for perpetrators of atrocities; and provide humanitarian relief to Syrians in need.
“The relief we send doesn’t say “Made in America,” but make no mistake—our aid reflects the commitment of the American people.  American aid means food and clean water for millions of Syrians. American aid means medicine and treatment for hundreds of thousands of patients in Damascus, Dar’a and Homs.  It means immunizations for one million Syrian children.  American aid means winter supplies for more than half a million people in Aleppo, Homs and Dayr az Zawr.  And we’re working with allies and partners so that this aid reaches those in need.
“Today, we’re taking another step.  I’ve approved an additional $155 million in humanitarian aid for people in Syria and refugees fleeing the violence.  Here, I want to speak directly to the people of Syria. This new aid will mean more warm clothing for children and medicine for the elderly; flour and wheat for your families and blankets, boots and stoves for those huddled in damaged buildings.  It will mean health care for victims of sexual violence and field hospitals for the wounded.   Even as we work to end the violence against you, this aid will help address some of the immediate needs you face each day.
“This new commitment will bring America’s total humanitarian aid to Syria to $365 million—making us the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people.  Today, I also call on the international community to do more to help these Syrians in need, and to contribute to the latest UN humanitarian appeal.
“We’re under no illusions.  The days ahead will continue to be very difficult.  But what’s clear is that the regime continues to weaken and lose control of territory.  The opposition continues to grow stronger.  More Syrians are standing up for their dignity.  The Assad regime will come to an end.  The Syrian people will have their chance to forge their own future.  And they will continue to find a partner in the United States of America.”
Read the President's message in Arabic (pdf). You can also watch the video with Arabic subtitles.

Assad to get his cut from Kuwait aid conference


I've heard it said that mixed feelings, like mixed drinks, confuse the soul and mind. So I don’t know whether to hail or wail tomorrow’s international pledging conference for Syria in Kuwait City.
Hail, because over four million people are in need of assistance in Syria, half of them in Aleppo, Homs and Rural Damascus, plus another 704,314 Syrian refugees in neighboring countries and North Africa.
Wail, because UN fundraisers have already earmarked at least a third of the required humanitarian response for the next six months to President Bashar al-Assad’s tentacles.
Tomorrow, heads of state and representatives from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations will gather at Bayan Palace in Kuwait City to attend the first-ever high-level International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria.
The one-day conference will give member states an opportunity to continue supporting the much-needed humanitarian response. So far, only a small percentage of the funding has been received, limiting the ability of UN agencies and their humanitarian partners to reach people who desperately need help. 
Hosted by Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah and chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the conference will address the funding gaps for the Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (HARP) for Syria and the Syria Regional Refugee Response (SRRP).
Together the plans seek $1.5 billion to assist millions of civilians affected by the Syria war over the next six months, including those inside the country as well as many others taking refuge beyond its borders.
About $1 billion is for the SRRP, which will support more than 700,000 refugees who have fled Syria to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Algeria.
HARP requires more than $519 million to help over four million people inside Syria, including an estimated two million internally displaced persons.
Problem is the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has unashamedly said all humanitarian assistance is, and will continue to be, delivered “with full respect to the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic” during the implementation of this Response Plan.
“This Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan aims at supporting the Government of Syria’s efforts in providing humanitarian assistance to the affected populations.  It will cover the period from 1 January 2013 until the end of June 2013.  The financial requirements amount to $519,627,047,” according to
And here is how HARP will disburse the $519,627,047 to Assad’s government ministries:
Agriculture & Agrarian Reform: $196,896,716
Health: $81,905,133
Education: $23,024,800
Foreign Affairs: $9,438,752
Labor & Social Affairs: $20,547,692
Local Administration (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene): $43,417,139
Labor, Social Affairs, Local Administration and Municipalities (Non-Food Items and Shelter): $110,771,867
Agriculture & Agrarian Reform, Labor & Social Affairs and Local Administration Labor (Livelihoods): $19,670,111
Logistics, Emergency Telecom and Staff Safety Services: $13,954,837
I wonder if UN budget planners had the wisdom of consulting Assad about his own destruction chart for the next six months to at least work in synch.
The Syrian Expatriates Organization (SEO), the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations (USMRO) and the Syrian Americans for Democracy (SAD) have all deplored the UN decision assigning Assad’s government to manage the humanitarian aid inside Syria.
The Local Coordination Committees, a network of grassroots activists in Syria, said the proposed aid amounted to "blatant support for the regime to continue its savage crimes to repress the Syrian revolution.”
The Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces wondered in a statement, “Is it logical to provide aid to a regime responsible for destroying cities, bombing hospitals and bakeries and displacing a population, so it can fix the dire situation it created?”
It said, “Humanitarian aid to the widows and orphans, the hungry, wounded and displaced in Syria, should not be delivered to them through the same party that caused their suffering and pain, for it would be an added humiliation and degradation.”
Avaaz, the international activist network, has condemned the HARP plan as a “crazy handout” to the Syrian government. It has called for donors to bypass the Kuwait conference and give money instead to the relief efforts of “the Syrian National Coalition, the recognized and legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”

Monday 28 January 2013

Medvedev and Obama’s plain speaking on Syria

Medvedev talking to CNN in Davos

The Kremlin’s staunch support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is fading.
The White House’s comatose stance on Syria will be dragging out.
These are my perceptions of the two positions as expressed in the past 48 hours by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Davos and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.
Medvedev’s interview was aired Sunday on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS.
Obama spoke separately to the New Republic magazine and on CBS 60 Minutes.
Transcripts of the Qs & As on Syria in all three interviews follow.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about Syria.
MEDVEDEV (through translator): Why not.
ZAKARIA: You have said that you, (that) Russia wants to be neutral in the conflict. You're not supporting the Assad regime, but the reality is that the Russian army has trained the Syrian army. There are long ties there, and you have influence with the Syrian government. Very few countries have it. If you believe -- what I'm trying to understand is that it is not in Russia's interest for this conflict to go on, for it to become one in which more and more militant Islamic forces participate and Jihadist groups form. After all, it is directly to your south and could move into Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya. So, why would you not, from a purely Russian national interest point of view, try to get the Assad regime to understand that it must find a compromise and that Assad must step down?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): Let us discuss. From the outset, the Russian Federation was not an exclusive ally of Syria or President Assad. We had good relations with his father and him, but he had much closer allies among the European states.
We never said that our goal was to preserve the current political regime or making sure that President Assad stays in power. That decision has to be made by the Syrian people.
The Syrians are a multi-ethnic and multi-religious people. Thus, we need to have all present at the negotiating table -- Sunnis, Shia, Alawites, Jews, Christians. Only this way could you have a genuine national dialogue.
If you exclude someone, then the civil war will continue, and the war that is already under way. And in it, in my view, both sides are responsible -- the Syrian authorities and the opposition, which, by the way, is largely represented by Islamic radicals.
ZAKARIA: But why doesn't Russia try to broker some such agreement? Why don't you take the lead?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): I personally called Assad a few times and said you need to start reforms; you need to sit down at the negotiating table. I repeat one more time. In my view, unfortunately, the Syrian authorities turned out not to be ready for this.
ZAKARIA: Can Assad survive?
MEDVEDEV (through translator): I think that with every day, with every week, with every month, the chances of him surviving are becoming less and less. But, once again, it should be decided by the Syrian people -- not by Russia, not by the U.S., not by any other country. The most important thing right now is to support the process of national reconciliation.
ZAKARIA: But you agree with me, what is happening in Syria -- the current situation -- is bad for Russia, because it is becoming more and more Islamic, it is becoming more Jihadist. And you will say -- we are 8,000 miles away in the United States. You will face this in your backyard. So, it is an urgency for you to do something.
MEDVEDEV (through translator): It's hard for me to disagree with you. But I believe the situation is so troublesome for everyone because the representatives of radical Jihad will not only penetrate into Russia, they (also) travel to Europe, and they try to infiltrate the U.S. So, this situation is bad for everyone.
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF CHRIS HUGHES: The last question is about Syria. I wonder if you can speak about how you personally, morally, wrestle with the ongoing violence there.
OBAMA: Every morning, I have what's called the PDB—presidential daily briefing—and our intelligence and national security teams come in here and they essentially brief me on the events of the previous day. And very rarely is there good news.
And a big chunk of my day is occupied by news of war, terrorism, clashes, violence done to innocents. And what I have to constantly wrestle with is where and when can the United States intervene or act in ways that advance our national interest, advance our security, and speak to our highest ideals and sense of common humanity.
And as I wrestle with those decisions, I am more mindful probably than most of not only our incredible strengths and capabilities, but also our limitations.
In a situation like Syria, I have to ask, can we make a difference in that situation? Would a military intervention have an impact? How would it affect our ability to support troops who are still in Afghanistan? What would be the aftermath of our involvement on the ground? Could it trigger even worse violence or the use of chemical weapons? What offers the best prospect of a stable post-Assad regime? And how do I weigh tens of thousands who've been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?
Those are not simple questions. And you process them as best you can. You make the decisions you think balance all these equities, and you hope that, at the end of your presidency, you can look back and say, I made more right calls than not and that I saved lives where I could, and that America, as best it could in a difficult, dangerous world, was, net, a force for good.
Obama and Clinton on CBS 60 Minutes
STEVE KROFT: The biggest criticism of this team in the U.S. foreign policy from your political opposition has been what they say is an abdication of the United States on the world stage, sort of a reluctance to become involved in another entanglement, an unwillingness or what seems/appears to be an unwillingness to gauge big issues. Syria, for example.
OBAMA: Yeah, well--
KROFT: I mean, that--
OBAMA: Well, Muammar Qaddafi probably does not agree with that assessment, or at least if he was around, he wouldn't agree with that assessment. Obviously, you know, we helped to put together and lay the groundwork for liberating Libya. You know, when it comes to Egypt, I think, had it not been for the leadership we showed, you might have seen a different outcome there. But also understanding that we do nobody a service when we leap before we look. Where we, you know, take on things without having thought through all the consequences of it. And Syria's a classic example of where our involvement, we want to make sure that not only does it enhance U.S. security, but also that it is doing right by the people of Syria and neighbors like Israel that are going to be profoundly affected by it.
And so it's true sometimes that we don't just shoot from the hip.
CLINTON: We live not only in a dangerous, but an incredibly complicated world right now with many different forces at work, both state-based and non-state, technology, and communications. And, you know, I'm older than the president. I don't want to surprise anybody by saying that.
OBAMA: But not by much.
CLINTON: But, you know, I remember, you know, some of the speeches of Eisenhower as a young girl, you know? You've got to be careful. You have to be thoughtful. You can't rush in, especially now, where it's more complex than it's been in decades. So yes, are there what we call wicked problems like Syria, which is the one you named? Absolutely. And we are on the side of American values. We're on the side of freedom. We're on the side of the aspirations of all people -- to have a better life, have the opportunities that we are fortunate to have here. But it's not always easy to perceive exactly what must be done in order to get to that outcome. So you know, I certainly am grateful for the president's steady hand and hard questions and thoughtful analysis as to what we should and shouldn't do.
OBAMA: You know, there are transitions and transformations taking place all around the world. We are not going to be able to control every aspect of every transition and transformation. Sometimes they're going to go sideways. Sometimes, you know, there'll be unintended consequences. And our job is to, number one, look after America's security and national interest. But number two, find where are those opportunities where our intervention, our engagement can really make a difference -- and to be opportunistic about that. And that's something that I think Hillary has done consistently. I think the team at the State Department's done consistently. And that's what I intend to continue to do over the next four years.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Out of sight, Iraq breaks up in three


Iraq has long been a religious, ethnic and ideological mosaic difficult to rule as a united entity, and Saddam Hussein's removal did little to change that.
In 1919, there were no Iraqi people. History, religion and geography pulled the people apart, not together.
Basra looked south, towards India and the Gulf, Baghdad had strong links with Persia [Iran], and Mosul had closer ties with Syria.
And the current war in Syria, Iraq’s next-door neighbor, has helped reignite the Sunnite-led insurgency in northern and western Iraq, especially in Mosul and the Anbar Province.
Gunmen yesterday killed two soldiers, injured another and kidnapped three more in Anbar after seven protesters were shot dead and 60 others injured by army gunfire in Fallujah.
The attacks on soldiers came as mourners buried the Sunnite protesters felled a day earlier.
The army said the protesters were trying to cut off an international highway linking Iraq with neighboring Jordan and Syria.
The tit for tat killings in Anbar Province, which makes up roughly one-third of Iraq's territory, are the first since mass protests against the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki began five weeks ago in Baghdad and western Iraq.
A demonstration followed the burials during which protesters shouted: “Listen Maliki, we are free people” and “Take your lesson from Bashar,” a reference to Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad.
The protesters accuse Maliki of being “Iran’s man in Iraq” and his government of discriminating against Sunnite Arabs, saying they are treated as second-class citizens.
Their leaders’ demands range from Maliki's removal to the release of hundreds of women detainees and the suspension of an anti-terrorism law that Sunnites believe has been abused by authorities to target their sect unfairly.
The Sunnite protests broke out in December after Finance Minister Rafei el-Essawi's bodyguards and staff were detained on terrorism charges. Sunni leaders saw the arrests as part of a sustained crackdown on their sect by Iraq's Shiite leadership.
In December 2011, another crisis erupted after Maliki sought the arrest of Sunnite Vice-President Tariq el-Hashemi, accused by the prime minister of running death squads. He fled the country and was later sentenced to death in absentia.
Complicating the attempts to ease Sunnite protests, the government -- made up of Shiite, Sunnite and Kurdish blocs -- is also caught in a standoff over oil with autonomous Kurdistan in the north.
Abdelghani Ali Yehya
Abdelghani Ali Yehya, a Kurdish political analyst and prominent writer who heads the Journalists Union of Kurdistan, says today’s Iraq has already “splintered in three, but out of sight.”
In his think piece for the leading Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat, he begins by quoting from a memo written by Iraq’s King Faisal, the first (1921- 1933) monarch in the country’s modern era.
The 1925 memo was addressed to a commission mandated by the League of Nations to look into a dispute over the Mosul region between Turkey and the British protectorate of Iraq.
"Heartbrokenly,” King Faisal wrote, “I can say there is no Iraqi people yet, but only deluded human groups void of any national idea. Iraq is one of those countries lacking the fabric of social life – namely intellectual, denominational and religious unity."
Yehya says King Faisal was right. Since its inception in 1921, the Iraqi state has not ceased being challenged.
In August 1933, for example, it had to brutally repress a revolt in Dohuk Province by the Assyrian Christians of northern Iraq.
The 1935–1936 Iraqi Shiite revolts in the mid-Euphrates region against the Sunnite dominated authority of the Kingdom of Iraq followed.
Parallel revolts also broke out that year in chiefly-Kurdish northern Iraq.
In October 1935, the Iraqi government crushed yet another revolt by the Yazidi Kurds of Jabal Sinjar.
The Yazidis of Jabal Sinjar constituted the majority of Iraq’s Yazidi population -- the second largest non-Muslim minority within the kingdom, and the largest heterodox Kurdish group in the province of Mosul.
In 1939, the region of Jabal Sinjar was once again put under military control, together with the Shekhan District.
Yehya says persecution of Iraq’s minorities precipitated the schism between its Arab and ethnic Kurdish components.
It came in the wake of the Kurds’ 1991 uprisings, which culminated in the West’s establishment of no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq and the Kurds’ creation of the Kurdish Autonomous Republic in an area of Iraqi Kurdistan.
As the years passed, the Kurds could no longer remain under the authority of a central government, thus fulfilling the first two-way partition of Iraq, says Yehta.
The three-way breakup started after the 2003 fall of Saddam’s Sunnite-led Baathist regime and its replacement by a chiefly Shiite administration.
The ethnic and sectarian cleansing of Kurds, Christians, Shiites and Yazidis by extremist Sunnite factions started that same year.
Some Shiite militias in turn began cleansing Sunnites in Baghdad and the southern provinces. Thousands of Iraq’s Arab Sunnites were driven to Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Kurdistan and elsewhere.
Mutual cleansing by the two sides, Yehya explains, eventually carved Iraq’s exclusively Arab Sunnite region.
The idea of dividing Iraq in three gained significant momentum over the past 10 years, specially after then Sen. Joe Biden – the incumbent U.S. vice president – embraced it in 2006.
Biden's so-called soft-partition plan -- a variation of the blueprint dividing up Bosnia in 1995 -- called for dividing Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions, held together by a central government.
There would be a loose Kurdistan, a loose Shia-stan and a loose Sunni-stan, all under a big, if weak, Iraq umbrella.
"The idea, as in Bosnia, is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group -- Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab -- room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests," Biden and Leslie H. Gelb wrote in their opinion piece for The New York Times on May 1, 2006. "We could drive this in place with irresistible sweeteners for the Sunnis to join in, a plan designed by the military for withdrawing and redeploying American forces, and a regional nonaggression pact."
Yehya says much as past Iraqi governments cracked down on Kurds, Maliki has now taken the foolhardy step of closing the Jordanian-Iraqi crossing at Trebil in order to strangle Anbar economically.
Adding to the three-way partition fuel are the pro-Maliki demonstrations in the Shiite provinces.
“If Iraqi Kurdistan is semi-independent and the Sunnite Triangle is fenced in and shut out, it means the three-way breakup has become a fait accompli,” writes Yehya.
“It also means partition in the minds has translated into partition on the ground. Either an Iraqi Gorbachev comes next to institutionalize the breakup smoothly or we enter into an unpleasant cycle of creative chaos, catastrophes, killings and bloodshed.”