Iraq: Four-Headed Dragon

The imprudent, casual spirit that permeates official American papers on the future of Iraq after conflict sends shock waves through those less complacent about reality there. Four ‘isms’ will overshadow the day after war. Each is a monster in its own right, but little attention is paid to them.

The World Today
3 minute READ

Faleh Jabar

Senior Fellow, US Institute of Peace

President Saddam Hussein’s legacy will be intricate and thorny. There are four prominent elements: tribalism; anti-secular clericalism, or fundamentalist Islamism; nationalism; and extremism.

Iraqi nationalism is, at the moment, a benign, anti-regime force. It has been cut off from wider Arab nationalist debates since at least 1990. It may well act as cement to keep the nation together, but could wreak havoc or be manipulated by the defeated regime if direct military rule is imposed.

Extremism would add to the explosive mix. Two generations of Iraqis have been immersed in the culture of violence.

They know nothing of institutional politics, and have yet to learn about peaceful conflict resolution.

Oasis of civility

But extremism or enraged Iraqi nationalism could be dwarfed by two other monsters: tribalism and fundamentalism. These are not native to Iraq.

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