General Petraeus speaks

With political progress at a standstill, we must consider the least bad option.

U.S. Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker have been tasked with the impossible – solving problems in Iraq. The answers they repeated to Congress this week were expected – more time is needed to stabilize Iraq.

While some progress on security has occurred during the troop surge, the most important progress, political reconciliation, is no closer to being realized. With a number of Sunni cabinet ministers pulling out of the government, and Iraq’s parliament no closer to passing the oil revenue distribution laws and rebuilding its broken infrastructure, it’s clear that the Iraqi government as now constituted is incapable of bridging the sectarian divides.

Partition, or splitting Iraq into three autonomous regions for the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds with a central government, perhaps with international oversight, distributing oil revenues, might be the best option left. This ethnic consolidation is already occurring in Iraq, but at gunpoint, and the security gains Gen. Petraeus touted are in large part because some areas have already been solidified as all Sunni or all Shiite.

Iraq is a bell we cannot unring, and simply withdrawing immediately would be disastrous for both America and Iraq. The war began naïvely and shouldn’t end the same way. Most of the public has come to agree the war should end soon, but we do have true national security interests in the country, both economically, and because a failed state could mean a terrorist safe-haven in the heart of the Middle East. Partition is no guarantee that violence would stop, but it now seems like the least tragic of Iraq’s options. If partition occurs, our country’s top priority must be preventing large-scale massacres that could spark a regional conflict between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia using Iraq as a ground for meting out religious tensions.

The American people have lost their patience with this war, and will vote accordingly in 2008, likely for those who promise to end it immediately. We hope that those elected will take a sober look at the situation and move cautiously in their decisions on Iraq.