The following was posted on the Military.com forums on 06 January 2007:
The Pressure of Iraqi Federacy vs. Federation
Kurdistan enjoys rights of autonomy which the southern areas around Basra wished to also enjoy.
In October 2006, Iraq passed a law allowing its regions to create their own autonomous areas. It's still up in the air as to the new alignments we'll see.
Iraq's 450,000 Christians have been pushing for autonomy. They once had twice that number, before 1991, but violence forced many into exodus. The Chaldean, Syriac, Assyrian churches are looking either for a state-within-a-state with special recognition within Kurdistan, or their own federal state.
The open question is whether and precisely how might better-organized areas of Iraq may create specially-privileged areas of the nation, making them superior to the rights or privileges enjoyed in other parts of the country. This is the deep concern driving the oil-poor western Sunni areas: a lack of a share in the nation's oil revenues, a lack of proper representation or privilege.
The issue of federacy versus federalism is what shoaled Yugoslavia. It was obvious Serbia became "more equal" to the other states. One by one, the other republics sundered themselves from those unequal relations. Even now, it dominates its two autonomous provinces, Kosovo and Vojvodina, and it is obvious the Albanian Kosovars are not pleased with their present relationship.
What is the analogy and lesson to draw for Iraq? If the northern Kurdish region and the southern Shi'ite region are able to make special privileges for themselves, it will further fuel discontent amongst the increasingly-isolated and alienated Sunnis. Driven to desperation, they might feel that being separate from Iraq is better than being treated as inferior members of the federated nation. They do not enjoy privileges under a federacy. Thus why should they remain?
To combat this, a compromise would need to be reached with the Kurds and Shi'a. Some form of yet-to-emerge goodwill needs to break out between all parties to lessen tensions and to share benevolently in the rule of the country.
Barring such a rosy picture, incremental, creeping consolidation of power in the north and the south and the increasing sense that there is a "federacy" with unequal partners rather than a fair form of "federation" will cause Bagdhad and the west to consistently smoulder and periodically explode.