The Iraqi Government Is the Iraqis’ Business

There’s a lot of talk these days about splitting Iraq into three parts. It’s coming from almost every direction.

Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, with an eye on his run on the White House, wrote in the New York Times that the U.S. government should create a new Iraq along the lines of Bosnia: the idea “is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group — Kurd, Sunni Arab, and Shi’ite Arab — room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests.”

The White House, meanwhile, contends that only a “unity government” of Kurd, Shi’ite, and Sunni Arabs can pull Iraq together and defeat the terrorists.

Where in this debate are the desires of the Iraqis themselves? During the debate on the formation of the new government, Shia politicians complained that President Bush himself called Baghdad to say that Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (whose slate won the most votes in the elections we organized) was unacceptable to Washington.

As many Iraqis ask: Where is the democracy? Where is the freedom?

Even Kurdish politicians, who have benefited most from Washington’s largess, are sick of meddling from the U.S. government.

“It would be more appropriate if they would leave us alone,” well-respected Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman told the Los Angeles Times after Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice paid surprise visits to Baghdad.

“Let us solve our problems by ourselves,” he added.

A sheik affiliated with the Shi’ite Sadr movement agreed: “Enough is enough,” he told the Times. “Rice’s trip to Iraq at this critical time is just another desperate move by the Americans to try to impose themselves on our new government. But they have lost their influence.”

It’s time that politicians in both parties in Washington showed a little bit of respect for the 25 million people of Iraq and allowed them to decide on their own how to run their country. If the Kurds in northern Iraq want to secede and create their own country, that’s their business – but they should have to face the difficult political, economic, and security situation that would develop if they took that drastic step.

Democracy and freedom for Iraq means letting the Iraqi people decide how to plan their future, whether or not it happens to coincide with “American interests.” Maybe if Washington politicians gave Iraqis a little more space to make their own future together, they wouldn’t shoot and bomb American soldiers so much.

Iraqis know that “American interests” are different from their own. When politicians in the U.S. pretend otherwise, it only makes the situation worse.