Iraq is a construct, a country sketched out by the British during the carve-up of the Ottoman Empire. Britain looked to Mesopotamia's classical borders for guidance, but that civilization was long dead. The Iraq of 1919 was an Arab state, one that had no cultural connection, and very little ethnic ties, to the Mesopotamia of Hammurabi or even of the Babylon of Alexander the Great's time. So why fret about it coming apart now, as long as the ethnic and religious groups that live there now stop killin each other? Now, the hard slogging would be in matching the borders to the rival groups, and to the oil fields. Perhaps countries created for Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds could share the oil revenues of old Iraq on a per-capita basis, but the idea of "one person, one -----" is pretty alien to the mideast.
Iraq could break up unless steps are taken towards unifying it, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said, amid rising fears over the future of the war-shattered country.
"If there is no breakthrough and real unity does not begin, this situation (break-up) will become reality," Lavrov was quoted as saying by the ITAR-TASS news agency on Tuesday.
The comment came amid soul-searching by the main countries involved in Iraq -- notably the United States and Britain -- and by the Iraqi government itself over prospects for keeping the country united.
Since the US-led invasion in 2003, Iraq has become involved in a series of internal conflicts which threaten to tear it apart. In addition to the insurgency against military occupation there is vicious civil unrest, much of it pitting different ethnic and religious groups against one another.
Calls for a de facto partition have come from within Iraq, including one on Tuesday from the largest Shiite Muslim political grouping.