Streams

Revisiting Splitting Iraq

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An Iraqi man displays military badges at a shop in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. (Getty Images/Getty)

Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, Daily Beast contributor, and author of Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy, and then-Senator Joe Biden proposed splitting Iraq along sectarian lines in 2006, a road not taken that now looks prescient. He talks about that proposal and what options still exist.

Guests:

Leslie H. Gelb

Comments [28]

@Mr. Bad from NYC:

Yer' welcome.

Jun. 17 2014 01:46 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ geTaylor

Thanks for the two sentences of fatuous analysis and three long paragraphs of long winded, didactive, self congratulatory bleating. We can all "google" Walter Duranty if we wanted to or even cared for that matter, no need for the links...Ponderous man, friggin' ponderous as Polonius would say.

Jun. 17 2014 01:21 PM

Mr Gelb's appearance will serve him well in the competition for this year's "WALTER DURANTY PRIZE" for his promoting the Iranian fanatics as a partner to help establish peace in Iraq between the Shia and the Sunnis. (Credit should also be given to Brian for not inquiring how Sunnis in Iran feel they are treated by the inflexible ayatollahs.
(Hey Leslie, why not just allow the Iranians to produce enough nuclear weapons so that they could replace any need for the U.S. to get involved in these little conflicts?)

It was encouraging to hear a listener finally ask why there seems to be no religious differences "worth" fighting for within Iraq's Kurdish population. (Are they all converts of the Quakers?) Mr. Gelb's analysis of the basis for the described (by non-Muslims) Islamic fratricide, "That's how they break themselves up. . . . ", seems superficial and self-serving.

A rationale for the Duranty Prize follows, with various background links.

WHY A WALTER DURANTY PRIZE – Speech by Roger L. Simon

Or, as my ancestors said every year, why is this night different from all other nights? On other nights we celebrate journalistic excellence… as in the Pulitzer Prize… but on this night we celebrate a man who lied about Stalin and won the Pulitzer.

Well, we don’t really celebrate him. We refer to him. We use him as our emblem of something that is all around us — journalistic mendacity so awful, so meretricious, so despicably self-regarding that it is indeed in the tradition of Walter Duranty who — basically for his own self-aggrandizement, he wasn’t even a communist — white-washed Stalin’s mass starvation of upwards of a million Ukrainians, not to mention numerous other atrocities of the Soviet Union from the Gulag to the Purge Trials, for nearly twenty years as Moscow correspondent of the New York Times, while using, as an excuse for totalitarian evil, his oft-quoted phrase “You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.”

So we’re back again, a few months late, but we’re back, for our annual celebration of journalistic mendacity known as the Duranty Prize — and our new award for lifetime achievement called The Rather, of which more later. I think any award of the nature of the Duranty should be judged by its past recipients, don’t you — whether they were really and truly deserving of their honor? That’s how we judge the Nobel Peace Prize, after all …. Don’t we?
http://pjmedia.com/rogerlsimon/2014/05/06/duranty-prize-awarded/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Duranty

Jun. 17 2014 12:34 PM
Mike from New Jersey

@CR from Manhattan

I'm Korean American and am not sure how your references to Korea fit into this discussion. Yes, Korea was a colony of Japan (from 1910 to 1945), but the current state of affairs is a result of the peninsula being divided between the ostensible allies USA and USSR who had entered from opposite directions. In my view, that the DPRK (North Korea) is a hotspot in northeast Asia today is only tangentially related to colonialism.

Jun. 17 2014 11:45 AM
Amy from Manhattan

CR, it wasn't just the UK. It was also France in the Middle East, & in Africa, too, where several other European countries colonized, exploited, & redrew borders to suit what they perceived to be their own interests.

Jun. 17 2014 10:41 AM
fuva from harlemworld

CORRECTION: Mehsood from Brooklyn -- Are you saying Sunnis and Shia did NOT have semiautonomy under the Ottomans, etc.?

Jun. 17 2014 10:36 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Mehsood from Brooklyn -- Are you Sunnis and Shia did NOT have semiautonomy under the Ottomans, etc.?

Jun. 17 2014 10:35 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The Arabs should never have left the Arabian peninsula to conquer the rest of the Middle East in the 7th - 9th centuries. The Arabs spread just like the English and Irish spread into territories that were never theirs. So if you want to blame the Middle East mess on somebody, why not on the Arabs who left Arabia to conquer the Middle East just as Europeans left Europe to conquer the Americas and other parts of the world?

Jun. 17 2014 10:34 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Great guest! Nice to see the Lehrer show having a guest on Middle East Policy who doesn't parrot AIPAC talking points. Great article from Gelb back in 2007, quite prescient:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/23/books/review/Gelb-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Jun. 17 2014 10:33 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The Arabs should never have left the Arabian peninsula to conquer the rest of the Middle East in the 7th - 9th centuries. The Arabs spread just like the English and Irish spread into territories that were never theirs. So if you want to blame the Middle East mess on somebody, why not on the Arabs who left Arabia to conquer the Middle East just as Europeans left Europe to conquer the Americas and other parts of the world?

Jun. 17 2014 10:32 AM
Kumru from brooklyn

I find the idea that Assad has been buying oil from the Jihadis not convincing at all. Does the guest has an evidence for this claim? What is his evidence?
thanks

Jun. 17 2014 10:29 AM

Love Gelb. Would appreciate hearing an opposing view though, or a conversation between Gelb and an opposing view.

Obviously they exist somewhere or this would not be a topic.

Jun. 17 2014 10:26 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I'm glad to hear Mr. Gelb agree w/the caller who pointed out that "Sunni" doesn't equate w/"jihadi," esp. when early in this segment he used "Sunni" to refer to the jihadis. He needs to be more careful about how he says things & make these important distinctions.

On the other hand, the caller said the US should play a supervisory role in working things out, but would the parties accept that kind of role for the US?

Jun. 17 2014 10:25 AM
Mehsood from Brooklyn

@fuva from harlemworld
You obviously don't know anything about Middle Eastern history. Ever since the Abassid Caliphate this area has been more or less one country. In fact ever since the assassination of the prophet Ali the area has been united. When the British took over they inherited an even larger landmass from the Ottomans.

Jun. 17 2014 10:25 AM
CR from Manhattan

fuva from harlemworld

Good point indeed, but if you're going to run down history, don't forget the culpability of Great Britain in all this. Pretty much every hot spot in the middle east (and Africa, and much of Asia, and Northern Ireland) were all colonies or protectorates of the UK.

In 500 years this will be studied in high school World History class with a much wider lens. "World History, the Reformation to 2300." It will all be viewed as the wind-down from the British Empire and colonialization in general. (Also, Korea, was a colony of Japan)

Jun. 17 2014 10:24 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

TO Fuva

There were no Arab states until WWI. They were all created by the League of Nations and by Great Britain after WWI. They were all under Turkish Ottoman sultanate for many centuries. There are today 21 Arabic speaking states and 1 Hebrew speaking Jewish state. The Kurds didn't get a state after WWI and that was a great injustice and big problem to this very day, because the British wanted to control the oil in that part of Iraq so necessary for the new British post WWI navy. And oil pipeline was built from Kirkuk to the port of Haifa in Palestine where the British build an oil refinery. In order to protect that pipelinee as WWII approached, the British tried to placate the Arabs by cutting off Jewish immigration into Palestine just two years before the Holocaust. The Nazi propaganda at the time said that the British and Arabs don't want the Jews either.

Jun. 17 2014 10:22 AM
Kumru from brooklyn

I find the idea that Assad has been buying oil from the Jihadis not convincing at all. Does the guest has an evidence for this claim? What is his evidence?
thanks

Jun. 17 2014 10:21 AM
John from Queens

"That's how they break themselves up?" "They decide to kill themselves?" This reeks of orientalism of the worst kind. Edward Said must be crying in his grave that this is what we have to listen to on public radio.

For starters ALL regions of Iraq have increasingly become less diverse ever since the US went in. Secondly between the 12 years of bombing between the two Bushes and the two invasions we have killed way more Iraqis than Iraqis have managed to kill by themselves.

Jun. 17 2014 10:19 AM
Larry from Brooklyn

On the question of the groups. My understanding is that Kurds are Sunni muslims (mostly). I also think referring to Kurds as a tribal group (the guest said) is not really the best way to describe the difference. They are an ethnic group (as stated by the caller). Not Arabs at all. And they have their own language.

So you have Kurds who do not want to be in an Arab state and Arabs who are fighting over religious ideology.

Jun. 17 2014 10:18 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

TO CR

I agree we should not be involved with nation building, but in the case of Israel,the Jews did rebuild a successful nation and using no US troops to defend them, but only some US arms and only after 1967. The "Palestinians" failed to build a nation choosing to fight the Jewish one instead.

Jun. 17 2014 10:16 AM
Anthony from Manhattan

Substitute "the Communists" with the "jihadis", and you'll find a repeat of Vietnam propaganda. Vietnam is a welcoming ally today. This fellow says "The people forget Iran helped us in the first two years with Afghanistan"… We didn't forget. It was not publicized and it was kept from the US public. Few of us knew. Keep asking the important questions Brian. We might get to some truth, and be able to use our heads for once. But the Pope has it right…. we make and sell arms and wars…. in the name of country, and security…. it's a horror…. it's a lie more often than not.

Jun. 17 2014 10:13 AM
fuva from harlemworld

CR from Manhattan -- What you may be overlooking, is that these people were separate, before the West came and pushed them together, by erecting false borders, that constitute current "countries" in the Middle East (and the Motherland).

Jun. 17 2014 10:13 AM
james from Manhattan

Iran is not a "natural ally." Iran is responsible for countless deaths and injuries to American forces and Iraqi civilians by supplying IED technology and weapons across the border to Iraqi insurgents during the peak of the insurgency. We should never forget this.

Jun. 17 2014 10:12 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Let's not reinvolve ourselves in Iraq's civil wars. If Iraq, like Yugoslavia or the USSR has to break up, so be it. If the Iranians want to send their own army to get back body bags in Tehran, that's their business. Do we owe something to Maliki?

There is an intra-Muslim war between Sunna and Shia as there was between Catholics and Protestants during the 16th and 17th centuries and it will only resolve itself when the warring sides exhaust themselves in their own blood. We should have paid for our war by taking $1 trillion dollars worth of crude oil back when we were there. We should not spend another dime on Iraq.

As for the Jihadist threat to Jordan or Saudi Arabia, again not our problem. They have plenty of US arms. ISrael defends itself using our arms, and so should Jordan and Saudi Arabia defend themselves with the US arms they have. If they can't, tough luck on them. We have our own oil and natural gas. We don't intervene in the Congo, why should we forever intervene in Middle Eastern brawls that do not affect our material interests or internal security.

Jun. 17 2014 10:11 AM
Jose from NYC

I can't believe that 10 years after this disaster Brian Lehrer is hosting yet another Council on Foreign Relations troll with another "brilliant plan" on how to dispose of land that is not ours to dispose of.

What I want to know, Brian, is when are you going to have a show revindicating the millions of Americans that had the foresight to realize that invading Iraq was not just a bad idea, but unnecessary?

I remember very well the response of commentators like you to what now have proven to be completely accurate predictions: "Well, then what do you want to do about Saddam?" As if somehow there was a crisis or some sort of emergency.

Could you please host some people who had the right idea in the first place, instead of this endless parade of mea culpa sociopaths who obviously don't know the area or the dynamics involved?

Jun. 17 2014 10:11 AM
fuva from harlemworld

At some point, can someone please explain what the Obama administration should have done, that it did not do, when Iraq rejected the Status of Forces Agreement and an extension of Bush' withdrawal deadline?

Jun. 17 2014 10:09 AM
CR from Manhattan

Sure. "We" should divide the region like senator #Birthrighttobepresident Biden suggested. Nation building works... we've seen it for years. Just look at Israel/Palestine, Pakistan/India, Kuwait/Iraq, the Koreas... and all the other places where "we" have attempted to engineer a nation - nothing but peace and happiness.

Jun. 17 2014 10:06 AM
Bobby G from East Village

I think President should order a surge in Iraq -- a humanitarian surge to aid all the refugees created by this horrible situation. Other than that we should STAY OUT. The U.S. has a sordid history in the region going all the way back to the CIA overthrow of Mossedeq in Iran. It's presumptuous of us to divide up Iraq or anywhere else into three parts. The Sunnis and Shia have been in conflict for centuries. It's their fight -- not ours. It will be brutal, but it will their brutality -- not ours.

It will disruptive to the world oil market, but let's make it an opportunity to get our energy policies in order.

Jun. 17 2014 09:51 AM

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