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Divide and heal

Despite the imminent formation of a government of national unity, Iraq is splintering into its three historic provinces. The break-up can be managed, but it cannot be avoided. The western powers and Iraqi nationalists must now accept that radical federalism is the only alternative to civil war

Sometime in the next few days or weeks, a government of national unity will finally be formed in Iraq. This rare piece of good news will briefly rekindle some of the optimism about the political future of a unified Iraq that followed last December’s election. But the reality on the ground is that Iraq is breaking up. The Kurdish north is largely independent and Basra, capital of the Shia south, is increasingly falling out of Baghdad’s orbit. Moreover, there is anecdotal evidence of significant population movement—with Shias leaving Sunni areas, Sunnis leaving Shia areas, and Kurds (and many professionals of…

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