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Dr. Sam Holliday, Director, Armiger Cromwell Center

Like many of us, Keith Mines believes that the success of the Surge and the improvement in Iraqi security forces have created an opportunity to seek a political solution superior to the present structure in which Kurds and Arab Sunnis and Shi’ites scramble for power at the national level.

After he considers (1) partitioning Iraq into various ethnic and religious “states,” (2) using more American advisors to help the national government impose its authority on the provinces, (3) allowing the Shi’ites to crush Sunni resistance, and (4) concentrating on security while allowing new political arrangements to emerge, Mines correctly rejects them all as flawed.

With keen insight he claims: “The only viable prospect for a unified and stable Iraq” is the creation of a political framework based upon a federation of its eighteen provinces. Politics at the provincial and local level, he believes, will force participation and establish accountability and cooperation across religious and ethnic lines.

However, Mines’ five-part plan to achieve federation is unlikely to be successful. Two of the parts strike this commentator as excellent: convene a conference of national unity and resolve constitutional issues. A third part, establish a firm timetable for American withdrawal, is questionable. Two other parts — rely on a UN envoy and unilateral disengagement of U.S. forces — seem, to this commentator, to be unwise.

There is universal agreement that the key “is to extricate U.S. forces from Iraq without evincing weakness or lack of staying power.” To accomplish this the United States needs to stay engaged until the insurgents are neutralized in each province and security is extended to the village and neighborhood level. Then the governor of each of the 18 provinces can insure that the people of his province are organized and motivated.

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