The possibility of the country being partitioned is "irresponsible and reflect ignorance of the Iraqi situation," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi replied in a statement on Thursday after the US army's outgoing chief of staff, Raymond Odierno, warned that reconciliation between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq is becoming harder and stated that partitioning the country "might be the only solution."
General Odierno, who once served as the top US commander in Iraq and set to retire on Friday after nearly 40 years in service, stated that the US should focus now solely on defeating ISIS that has seized large portions of both Iraq and its neighboring country, Syria and that partition "could happen" but that was for the region’s politicians and diplomats to figure out.
"It might be the only solution, but I'm not ready to say that yet," said Odierno.
In a news conference he was asked if he saw any possibility of reconciliation between Shiites and Sunnis, whose conflict brought the two communities to brink of civil war in 2006, and replied that "It's becoming more difficult by the day" and pointed to a future in which "Iraq might not look like it did in the past."
ISIS’ capturing of major parts of Iraq’s north and west over the past year has fuelled speculation about the country splitting into Shia, Sunni Arab and Kurdish regions.
The US military, which withdrew from Iraq in 2011, has resumed training Iraqi forces and selected Syrian fighters deemed “moderate” as part of a training campaign to control and eventually exterminate ISIS. The US has also used warplanes to conduct air strikes as a method to target ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria.
Odierno said ISIS "has been blunted somewhat" by the air strikes.
"I think right now we are kind of at a stalemate and continue to make some progress," he said, emphasising that it was highly important to continue rebuilding the Iraqi military force.
He had urged that a US force should be left in country, but the US and Iraqi governments were unable to reach an agreement that would have allowed troops to stay on ground.