In late September, the U.S. Senate approved a resolution supporting the idea of dividing Iraq into three administrative and territorial entities by religion and ethnic origin. This resolution may not lead to the final partition, but may easily explode the situation in Iraq again.
The resolution suggests that Iraq should be divided into three enclaves - with Shiites in the south, Sunnis in the center and Kurds in the north. They will have one federal center in Baghdad. The capital will only be responsible for the security of the federation's borders and control of oil profits. It will delegate the majority of administrative and government functions to the territorial entities.
At first sight, this idea looks attractive, all the more so since the federal principle is sealed by the draft new Iraqi Constitution, on which a national referendum will be held on October 15. The Iraqi newspaper as-Sabah reported recently the results of the public opinion poll conducted by the Iraqi Center for the Development of International Dialogue - the majority of Iraqis are going to vote for the draft.
But for all that, the U.S. Senators seem to be divorced from the Iraqi reality. There are several obvious "but's," which they might have considered in the resolution.
The fact that the latter was recently backed by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, an ethnic Kurd, will only further escalate tensions in the country, if only because it was categorically opposed by the more influential Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, an Iraqi Shiite.
The Iraqi parliament and a number of prominent Sunni and Shiite parties also objected to the federation idea. In effect, it was only supported by the Kurds who live in the north where the main reserves of Iraqi oil are located.
The plan to separate the Shiite south from the Sunni center looks dubious as well. The White House should have learnt a lesson from the Balkan problem about religious compatibility or lack of it. In any country, the balance between different religions has been taking shape for centuries and is extremely fragile. Any imprudent decision may upset it, and one side may take it as an attempt to encroach on its interests to the benefit of the other. The Sunnis, the former rulers of the country, will no longer have sea ports in the south or oil in the north. They are not likely to be happy about the U.S. resolution even though it provides for a twenty percent deduction from oil sales to the Iraqi federal budget.
As for the Iraqi Shiite south, Washington and its Gulf allies - Riyadh, Amman, the Kuwait City and Baghdad - are afraid that under certain circumstances it may easily turn into Iran's protectorate. There are many debates on this subject, as well as on the U.S. plan for Iraq's partition.
Not a single Iraqi neighbor, including the Gulf nations, has backed the idea of a federation because it is as dangerous as it is attractive, at least for now. Any decision on the Kurdish autonomy problem in Iraq is bound to have repercussions in traditional Kurdish-populated areas of Turkey, Syria and Iran.
Luckily, the U.S. Senate resolution is not binding for Iraq or the U.S. administration. It was passed as an amendment to a bill on U.S. military policy and Washington may not even accept it. If it does, Gen. David Petraeus's plan to withdraw 30,000 U.S. soldiers from Iraq by the summer of 2008 will never be carried out.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.