Iraq: Divisive Forces

There are contradictions in American dealings with Iraq and surrounding countries. Without regional cooperation the place may never be stable, but Washington is focused on shutting out the foreigners and making Iraq a trailblazer for democracy. Perhaps the US doesn’t realise that the neighbours are part of the fabric in Iraq and there is no way to isolate it from the wider region.

The World Today Updated 16 October 2020 Published 1 July 2004 5 minute READ

Rosemary Hollis

Former Director, Olive Tree Israeli-Palestinian Scholarship Programme, City, University of London

Just how transformative the Iraq war could turn out to be for the wider region was impressed on me and my colleagues on a recent visit to Syria and Lebanon.

Given their own multi-sectarian political system, the Lebanese believe they know a thing or two about how to manage diversity within a pluralistic political system, but no one seems interested in the lessons to be learned from the experience of Lebanon. Perhaps this is because Lebanon did descend into civil war, or because it was rescued in part by Syrian intervention, an influence that has now become pervasive.

The Syrians we talked to were mostly of the Arab nationalist school of thought who regard the United States intervention in Iraq as an affront to their pride as well as that of Iraqis. Their worldview is informed by Syria’s championship of the Arab cause, be it against Israel or US influence in the region.

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