Iraq Could Split, Says Former CIA Head

Former CIA head Michael Morell was not optimistic about the chances of reaching a democratic solution. Former CIA head Michael Morell was not optimistic about the chances of reaching a democratic solution. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

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 madesubstantial 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.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.