Philip Zelikow: Develops 80% proposal to sideline Sunnis in Iraq





The Bush administration is deliberating whether to abandon U.S. reconciliation efforts with Sunni insurgents and instead give priority to Shiites and Kurds, who won elections and now dominate the government, according to U.S. officials.

The proposal, put forward by the State Department as part of a crash White House review of Iraq policy, follows an assessment that the ambitious U.S. outreach to Sunni dissidents has failed. U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that their reconciliation efforts may even have backfired, alienating the Shiite majority and leaving the United States vulnerable to having no allies in Iraq, according to sources familiar with the State Department proposal.

Some insiders call the proposal the "80 percent" solution, a term that makes other parties to the White House policy review cringe. Sunni Arabs make up about 20 percent of Iraq's 26 million people....

State Department counselor Philip D. Zelikow, author of the proposal, argued that the United States has compromised its prospects of success by reaching too far, according to the sources.

The State Department proposal, which was introduced at the second of 10 meetings and has dominated debate ever since, suggests that the United States would keep at arm's length diplomatic efforts to bridge the deep divide in Iraq between the two branches of Islam, the sources said.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey declined to comment on the proposal....


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