Will Iraq Split Up
This will probably happen,
if not this year then almost
surely within five years. If
the US withdraws there will
be no force strong enough to
hold Iraq together,
The country's biggest Shiite party is hoping for a big win in elections across the oil-rich south to jump-start its campaign for a self-ruled region — a move that would transform Iraq and, critics say, give Iran its biggest prize since the ouster of Saddam Hussein.
To reach that goal, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council needs to win control of Najaf — which it wants as a future capital of an autonomous southern Iraq — when voters across the country choose members of ruling provincial councils Jan. 31.
But the Supreme Council faces strong opposition from other Shiite groups, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party and followers of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Those groups fear regional self-rule, modeled after the Kurdish autonomous area in the north, would weaken Iraq, open the door to expanded Iranian influence and threaten the existence of the Iraqi state.
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