Monday, November 13, 2006

More on Iraqi Identity

Matthew Yglesias notes something of importance for my earlier point about Sunni/Shi'ite conflict in Iraq:
"Kurds and Shiites both have, in the very recent past, been subjected to incredibly brutal repression by a Sunni-dominated central government. They, not unreasonably, fear the return of such repression. Sunni Arabs, meanwhile, have an also-not-unreasonable fear that Kurds and Shiites will, in their desire to avoid a return to repression, engage in similar repression."

That is actually the key to the current sectarian divisions of Iraq. What's more, however, is that while the Kurds were victims of Arab nationalism, the Shi'ites weren't victimized as Shi'ites, but rather as people from a marginalized area of the country without ties to the ruling elite but with an institutional structure which that elite feared as a possible locus of alternative power. Saddam Hussein actually tried to gain control of the Shi'ites tribes by promoting a group of pro-regime tribal leaders called the "shaykhs of the'90's." What appears to have actually happened, however, is that those who were "down and out" looked to religious ly based networking which crystallized when the CPA made confessional rather than, say, social class divisions the keys to politics in post-Saddam Iraq.

(Crossposted to American Footprints.)


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