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Iraq's tribal society is the missing element

Reader comment on item: The case for 'Iraqification'
in response to reader comment: What about a confederation for Iraq

Submitted by John R. (United States), Feb 18, 2007 at 16:56

Americans can't use their cultural lense of a multiethnic society as a prism for Iraq. It's tribal society that the Ottomans pretty much left to its own devices under the control of the local tribal chieftains when they ruled what is now Iraq for 300 years. I think Iraq should be reoranganized into a system of tribal cantons that would be completely autonomous of each other, and the central government should only have control over defense, diplomacy and trade on a consensus basis.

The Iraqi tribes have been fighting each other for 100s, if not 1000s of years. We were just stupid enough to remove the lid.

Tribe is more important than religion in Iraq. If religion were the real issue and Islam forbids Muslims from fighting other Muslims, then wouldn't the rebels exclusively be targeting our troops and not fellow Muslims? We have to find a way to keep rival tribes from feeling their enemies have power over them. The Bedouin are a fiercely proud and warlike people because they have had to be for centuries in order to survive. Honor to them is everything.

During World War I, the Ottomans and British controlled the pace of that war in Mesopotamia by forging alliances with the different tribes. We have to get the tribal leaders to the peace table and stop trying to impose our vision for Iraq. The only trick will be keeping the tribes from returning to their fratricidal ways after we pull out. My idea is based upon research I have done on the Ottoman era before the British, before the Hashemite monarch and before Saddam.

Know thy enemy and they will be yours--Sun Tzu.

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