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WSJ Q&A on Federalism in Iraq

Could the creation of autonomous federal regions stem the rising tide of sectarian violence in Iraq? Brendan O’Leary, a former adviser to the Kurdistan regional government and one of the editors of The Future of Kurdistan in Iraq, discussed the possibilities in a Q&A session with The Wall Street Journal Online’s Deborah Creighton Skinner. Here’s an excerpt from that interview.

Should people be optimistic about the future of Iraq and the success of a federal system?

The point is not to talk in the language of optimism and pessimism, but rather to assess both what’s happening and what can realistically be done.What realistically can’t be done is to persevere with the current oddity in U.S. policy. The U.S. historically has wanted a strong centralized Iraq as a balance against Iran. Domestically, having broken Saddam’s regime, it is very clear that the democratic preference of the overwhelming majority of  Iraqis, as expressed in their support of Shiite and Kurdish dominated  parties, is for a decentralized Iraq.

Now [the U.S. aim], to me, is a lost cause and a lost mission and accounts for a great deal of the current difficulties. If it is switched, however, toward focusing on the feasibility of full federalism then the U.S. would find better security.

The Wall Street Journal Online subscribers can read the full Q&A here.