Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Iraq: In Search of Unity
I finally got a chance to listen to Scott Powell's latest Islamist Entanglement lecture which focused on Iraq. The key to understanding Iraq seems to be that for most of history there was no such thing. Unlike Egypt or Iran, Iraq does not have a unifying history, race, or even religion. For much of its recent history the area now occupied by the state of Iraq was made up of three separate provinces within the Ottoman Empire. No modern Iraqis identify with the ancient empires that used to occupy parts of what used to be called Mesopotamia. The Iraqi population is made up of Arabs in the center and south of Iraq and Kurds in the north. Like Iran, the Shiites represent a majority of the Iraqi population; however, unlike Iran there is substantial minority of Sunnis. Thus, the only basis for the existence of an Iraqi political entity are the imperial machinations of the Western powers after World War I, in particular Great Britain. For a while, Iraqis were able to unite somewhat around enmity toward the West. However, after independence, such unity was only possible to be maintained with the brute force of dictatorships. The Iraqi history and background does not lead to optimism with respect to the present attempt to create a united, democratic Iraq by the United States, particularly after the departure of US troops.