Iraq Could Split, Says Former CIA Head

Mike Morell thinks a democratic, unified Iraq is unlikely to emerge from current chaos.

National Journal
Kaveh Waddell
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Kaveh Waddell
June 18, 2014, 10:14 a.m.

The cur­rent con­flict in Ir­aq may have already in­flic­ted ir­re­vers­ible dam­age on the coun­try, lead­ing either to par­ti­tion or to an Ir­an-backed dic­tat­or­ship.

That’s ac­cord­ing to Mike Mo­rell, the former act­ing dir­ect­or of the Cent­ral In­tel­li­gence Agency, in an in-depth in­ter­view with Charlie Rose on Tues­day. A mil­it­ant group called the Is­lam­ic State of Ir­aq and Syr­ia has made sub­stan­tial ad­vances in Ir­aq in the past sev­er­al weeks, and is with­in strik­ing dis­tance of Bagh­dad.

Mo­rell said this con­flict rep­res­ents “the most ser­i­ous set of cir­cum­stances in the Middle East” since the Ar­ab-Is­raeli war in 1973.

The former deputy dir­ect­or en­vi­sioned three pos­sible scen­ari­os for Ir­aq’s im­me­di­ate fu­ture. The first pos­sib­il­ity is par­ti­tion. This would be the blood­i­est scen­ario and would stir up sec­tari­an vi­ol­ence, ac­cord­ing to Mo­rell, and will likely come true in the ab­sence of any out­side in­ter­ven­tion. In this scen­ario, Mo­rell said, “there will be an aw­ful lot of blood. There will be hu­man­it­ari­an crises.”

This would also mean that the mil­it­ants could use the ter­rit­ory they’ve taken over “as a safe haven from which to at­tack West­ern Europe and from which to at­tack the home­land.” And the con­flict could also “spill over in­to the rest of the re­gion.”

In an­oth­er scen­ario, Ir­aq could re­main in­tact, but sig­ni­fic­ant Ir­a­ni­an in­ter­ven­tion would turn  it in­to a “Shi’a dic­tat­or­ship” and a de facto pup­pet state. This would leave the coun­try in just as bad a situ­ation as it was be­fore the Amer­ic­an in­va­sion in 2003. “In es­sence, what hap­pens is, you have an Ir­aq as you did un­der Sad­dam [Hus­sein], but the lead­er is a Shi’a,” he said.

There is third pos­sib­il­ity, however. The ideal out­come would be if Ir­aq comes to­geth­er in a new demo­cracy un­der a new gov­ern­ing co­ali­tion. This would re­quire the in­volve­ment of the U.S., Ir­an, and mod­er­ate Sunni states, and the ouster of Ir­aqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki.

Mo­rell was not op­tim­ist­ic about the chances of reach­ing a demo­crat­ic solu­tion. He ranked the three scen­ari­os above in des­cend­ing or­der of like­li­hood: a par­ti­tioned Ir­aq, an Ir­a­ni­an pup­pet state, then a uni­fied demo­cracy. Spe­cific­ally, he said that the ideal, demo­crat­ic out­come is un­likely be­cause of the twin chal­lenges of get­ting Ma­liki to step down and of find­ing someone to suc­ceed him who will be sup­por­ted by both Ir­aqi Sun­nis and Shi’a Ir­an.

As IS­IS ad­vances on Bagh­dad, Ir­aq’s fate re­mains un­clear. Any of these three scen­ari­os is pos­sible, but the only one that is re­motely at­tract­ive to the U.S. — and the one that is most prom­ising for Ir­aqi cit­izens — is the least likely.

What We're Following See More »
Is McMullin Building the GOP in Exile?
31 minutes ago

Evan McMullin, the independent conservative candidate who may win his home state of Utah, is quietly planning to turn his candidacy into a broader movement for principled conservatism. He tells BuzzFeed he's "skeptical" that the Republican party can reform itself "within a generation" and that the party's internal "disease" can't be cured via "the existing infrastructure.” The ex-CIA employee and Capitol Hill staffer says, “I have seen and worked with a lot of very courageous people in my time [but] I have seen a remarkable display of cowardice over the last couple of months in our leaders.” McMullin's team has assembled organizations in the 11 states where he's on the ballot, and adviser Rick Wilson says "there’s actually a very vibrant market for our message in the urban northeast and in parts of the south."

Clinton Up 9 in USA Today Poll; Up 3 According to Fox
41 minutes ago

A new USA Today/Suffolk University poll finds Clinton leads Trump by 9 points nationwide, 47% to 38%. A Fox News national poll has Clinton up just three points, 44% to 41% over Trump.

Too Many Potential Enrollees Paying Obamacare Penalties Instead
1 hours ago

One of the main reasons for the recent Obamacare premium hikes is that many potential enrollees have simply decided to pay the tax penalty for remaining uninsured, rather than pay for insurance. More than 8 million people paid the penalty in 2014, and preliminary numbers for 2015 suggest that the number approaches 6 million. "For the young and healthy who are badly needed to make the exchanges work, it is sometimes cheaper to pay the Internal Revenue Service than an insurance company charging large premiums, with huge deductibles."

Cruz: Eight Justices Could Be an Ongoing Situation
2 hours ago

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that "there was “precedent” for a Supreme Court with fewer than nine justices—appearing to suggest that the blockade on nominee Merrick Garland could last past the election." Speaking to reporters in Colorado, Cruz said: "I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.”

Chaffetz Also Caves, Says He’ll Vote Trump
5 hours ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.