The Baker commission has grown increasingly interested in the idea of splitting the Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish regions of Iraq as the only alternative to what Baker calls “cutting and running” or “staying the course”.This option seems optimal to me for a couple of reasons. It will reduce the 'internecine' killings taking place between Sunni and Shia militia groups and official recognize the unofficial partitioning that is already taking place as Shia and Sunni leave cities where they are in the minority. More broadly, it will illustrate to leaders of other Islamic states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria how the introduction of democratic reforms threatens to break up their states into autonomous pieces. So they'll be less inclined to do so, meaning the Arab street, which is more dangerous to us both economically and in terms of security, will continue to be squelched by 'ironfists' with return addresses.
The biggest problem will be ensuring that the Sunnis in central Iraq get some cut of Iraq's oil revenue. But that's going to be a hurdle no matter what.
Our two most powerful leaders are finally considering options other than "staying the course":
Bush and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, have resisted the break-up of Iraq on the grounds that it could lead to more violence, but are thought to be reconsidering. “They have finally noticed that the country is being partitioned by civil war and ethnic cleansing is already a daily event,” said Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations.Better really really late than never, I suppose.