Former U.S. Official: Iraq Unity Tenuous

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Iraq is not far from breaking up the way other multi-ethnic states such as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have, says Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia who has advised Iraqi Kurds. He argues that the country's constituent components — the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds — are already de facto independent.

Galbraith says the only way Iraq has been held together post-World War I is through brute force and argues it is possible to have a negotiated breakup of the country into a loose confederation. But in order for that to happen, he says, the three parties will need to resolve issues such as how to divide benefits from oil resources and territorial disputes in mixed areas such as Kirkuk and Baghdad.

He recommends building regional, rather than national, institutions, and the development of a Sunni army to fight the Sunni insurgency.

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