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:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    View
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    View

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