Setting aside the obvious fact that supporting genocide or brutal repression on ANY scale is morally unpardonable, I still think Kondracke is wrong. First, his solution would only further antagonize and radicalize Sunni Jihadis, resulting in more violence against the U.S. and its allies. Second, there is an alternative. Reconciliation between Sunnis and Shias IS possible, and it's up to the international community to facilitate it.
I pointed out in my entry Radicalization Spillover last week that Sunnis and Shias do live in peace in some countries, and the Michigan example - however far removed from the realities of the Middle East - at least sets a precedent for a formal peace agreement between the sects in the wake of violence. But commenters questioned just how realistic such a solution was, and who could possibly implement it.
To answer those questions, I highly recommend an article in last Thursday's Washington Post called "A Dayton Process for Iraq," by EPIC friend and peacebuilder Rend Al-Rahim. We haven't always seen eye-to-eye with Rend on every issue, but on this one, we feel she got it spot on. Rend's extensive knowledge of her native country as the founding director of the Iraq Foundation and Iraq's representative to the U.S. from 2003 to 2004 should not be taken lightly. This woman knows what she's talking about.
Rend proposes a peace process modeled upon the Dayton Accords, which effectively ended major violence in Bosnia even after a brutal ethnic war leaving hundreds of thousands dead. Although important differences exist in the two cases, Rend argues they should not deter us from using this model, which - if properly implemented - could result in an Iraqi reconciliation.
Rend's solution includes seven elements:
- A strong and credible driving force behind the process. The U.S. is in the best position to play this role, but need not do so alone.
- A credible sponsor. The United Nations or another organization with high-profile, skilled facilitators must be involved.
- The single objective of producing a Sunni-Shiite agreement. No questions of international troops, oil, regional conflicts or other concerns should be involved.
- Representation of Iraqi groups at the highest level of decision-making. Nobody can make peace for Iraq. We can help, but if the Iraqis don't see it as their own, it will be doomed from the start.
- Sustained discussions until compromise is reached. There need not be a time-table; if the final solution is to be truly final, it must be thorough and agreed upon by all.
- Implementation mechanisms and a timetable. While we can't put a timer on the process, we can upon its implementation. The how and when of enforcement must be spelled out.
- Ratification by concerned countries, including Iraq's neighbors. The final agreement will only be credible if it is linked to other agreements and accords, and agreed upon and respected by all with concerns in the nation.
Although we have a moral obligation to help the vulnerable Iraqi people in the meantime and do what we can to build economic and political infrastructure, an agreement must be forged between Iraqi Sunnis and Shias before we can hope for real, sustainable peace.
With Rend's plan, we have that hope.