Croat's advanced economic development in BiH.
This article by Stephen Schwartz has not done the
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advanced economic development in BiH.
By Stephen Schwartz Published 02/02/2004
Will Iraq survive as a single country, or is it
destined to be partitioned between its three
constituent communities, the Kurds, Sunni Muslim
Arabs, and Shia Arabs? This controversy, which has yet
to rise to the status of formal debate anywhere,
nonetheless lurks in the background as policy experts
and pundits offer predictions for Iraq's future.
The question of revised borders offers a parallel
between Iraq and the former Yugoslavia -- one of
several that should trouble the sleep of global
political leaders, if they care to observe it.
Like Yugoslavia, Iraq was a "nation" assembled out of
parts of a former empire, at the end of World War I.
In the former instance, the Slavic possessions of the
Habsburgs were merged with Serbia and Montenegro. In
the latter, three separate governing districts of the
Ottoman empire were cobbled together on little basis
other than geographical proximity.
No "Yugoslav" identity commanded the loyalty of the
country's majority, and no "Iraqi" nationality can be
said, today, to unite the people who live within the
Baghdad state's borders. In Yugoslavia, differing
languages, religions, and political and legal
traditions defined local attitudes. There, the worst
conflicts took place between differing Christian
sects: the Catholic Croats and the Orthodox Serbs. In
Iraq, Sunni and Shia Muslims view one another with
similar malicious feelings.
Is Iraq destined to break up into separate nations, as
Yugoslavia did? Not necessarily -- if only because the
potential consequences of redrawn borders in the
Middle East are, at first glance, even more deadly
than in the Balkans.
Of the contenders in the Yugoslav wars, only the
Kosovar Albanians had ethnic kinsmen outside the
"invented" country, and their desire to leave the
Yugoslav federation did not suggest that an existing,
neighboring power would be immediately undermined. In
Iraq, however, independence for Kurdistan would be
firmly opposed by Turkey, which fears secession by its
own restive community of Kurds. In addition, Saudi
Arabia is clearly terrified by the prospect of an
"independent" Shia-ruled entity on its northern
A Shia state carved out of southern Iraq might have
little effect on Shia Iran, which is Persian, rather
than Arab, in culture. But its existence might very
well inspire significant discontent among the Shia
Arab majority in the Saudi Eastern Province, where
much of the country's oil is located. Shias are the
most oppressed element in Wahhabi-ruled Saudi Arabia.
Of this, more will be said below.
In addition to the former Yugoslavia and Iraq sharing
a legacy of artificial borders and ethnic dissension,
both may end up as laboratories for administrative
policy-making by the United Nations.
Discussion of U.S. vs. UN control of Iraq began even
before the military intervention there. A considerable
number of UN personnel who served in the Balkans were
sent to Iraq soon after the fall of Baghdad. Some died
in terror incidents, and the rest were quickly
But soon enough, U.S. authorities began discussing
alternatives to the political structure established in
the immediate aftermath of the war, i.e. the Iraqi
Governing Council. Responsibility for a new Iraq, it
was said, might be handed to the UN, or to the
European Community. It could even fall into the hands
of the French, who have the worst record in the
Balkans, and internationally, for spinelessness in the
face of criminality (see Rwanda, as well as the
history of French dealings with Saddam Hussein).
If Iraq is similar to the former Yugoslavia in its
history as an abstract construct, it could even more
resemble the formerly-Yugoslav successor state of
Bosnia-Hercegovina in becoming a country of competing
national groupings - Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and
Serbs - ruled by foreign authorities.
I would therefore offer a set of predictions on the
future of Iraq, based on precedents visible in
First, regarding the Iraqi Kurds. Thanks to a long
period of U.S. protection, they have developed a
successful, functioning economy, stable political
leadership, and competent media. They also have a
tradition of fierce nationalism that is uncomfortable
for their neighbors. In this, they resemble the
Bosnian Croats, whose long relationship with central
Europe has allowed them to leap ahead of their Serb
and Muslim neighbors in economic development. Yet the
Bosnian Croats are kept at arm's length by "the
international community," charged with radical
nationalism and extensive economic corruption.
The Croats and Kurds also share peculiar
characteristics in that both nations were once
considered mercenaries of empire, the Habsburgs in the
Croat case and the Ottomans for the Kurds, and both
were, in the past, seen as paragons of radical leftism
-- in the Croat instance, during the 1920s.
I predict, therefore, that as in the Bosnian Croat
case, international bureaucrats, if they gain control
in Iraq, will reinforce their current tendency to
ignore the Iraqi Kurds, and denigrate their economic
and social advances.
The Iraqi Shias, although they constitute the majority
in the country, resemble the Bosnian Muslims, who
comprised a near-majority, in coming to the table of
the new Iraq with a reputation for Islamist
sympathies. At the same time, they are characterized
by extraordinary gratitude to the U.S.-led coalition
for having removed the Shia holy sites, Karbala and
Najaf, from the control of Saddam -- as the Bosnian
Muslims still thank Clinton for saving them. The
social and economic development of both Bosnian
Muslims and Iraqi Shias has been quite distinctive and
is little understood by the West. The dilemma of the
latter community is visible in the reluctance of the
U.S. in Iraq to grant their understandable demand for
elections. Like the Bosnian Muslims, the Iraqi Shias
have allies who excite suspicion, in both cases
located in Iran.
I predict that the goodwill and enthusiasm of the
Iraqi Shias will be ignored, and opportunities wasted
by the international community, which will have no
interest in spending the time required to study and
comprehend them and their traditions.
The so-called Sunnis of central Iraq have much in
common with the Serbs in the former Yugoslavia. Like
the Serbs, they enjoyed favorable economic, social,
and political advantages under the dictatorship. In
addition, like the Serbs in Yugoslavia, who enjoyed
Russian patronage, the Iraqi Sunnis are now backed in
their opposition to the new regime in Iraq by the
power of Saudi Arabia.
Nobody was prepared to challenge the Russians over
Bosnia. Nobody in the West today is ready to call the
Saudis to account for their incitement of jihadist
terror in Iraq, recruitment of Saudis to fight and die
in Iraq, and similar examples of criminal interference
north of their border. To emphasize, the Saudis are no
more interested in the success of a Shia-majority
democracy in Iraq than the Russians were in the
transformation of socialist Yugoslavia into a
prosperous free-market society.
In a chilling parallel between the former Yugoslavia
and Iraq, Western media flatter Saudi-recruited
Wahhabi terrorists by describing them as an Iraqi
"resistance" to Western invasion, just as numerous
journalists described Serbian aggression against the
neighboring republics as revenge against the Croats,
Bosnian Muslims, and Albanians for events that
occurred during World War II.
I predict "the international community," if allowed to
take charge in Iraq, will make accommodation with
Sunnis their main priority. This will lead to more,
rather than less terrorism, just as international
"peacekeeping" in Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1992-95, and
"monitoring" in Kosovo prior to 1999, led to more,
rather than fewer Serbian atrocities in the former
Stephen Schwartz is a frequent TCS contributor. He
last wrote for the site about Iraq's Record and the
UN's Track Record.