Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

A Tale of Three Cities: A User’s Guide To Politics in Post-Surge Iraq

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

By Tommy Brown

Virtually nowhere else in the world is the proverb “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard” more apropos than the Middle East.  With a recorded history that goes back millennia, a bevy of ethnic and sectarian groups feuding over grievances both ancient and modern, as well as being the birthplace of the three great monotheistic religions, it makes the inner workings of the Byzantine Empire or the Balkans seem as simple and straightforward as a sitcom plotline.

Since 9/11, and especially since the invasion of Iraq that ended with our occupation of Baghdad on 9 April 2003, Americans have been bombarded with an endless stream of news, analysis and opinion about Islam, terrorism, the Middle East, Iraq, Iran and virtually every other related subject. The unfortunate thing is that most of this commentary has absolutely no grounding in reality. Almost every piece of information that comes from the American media (television news and blogs are the worst culprits) is either filtered through a political lens to score partisan points or based on generalizations that have no meaning when discussing conditions on the ground.

The worst of these generalizations invariably concern Iraq.  I personally cringe every time I see a member of the Bush Administration, the Congress or the media refer to the “Iraqi people” when, for all intents and purposes, no such thing exists outside of diplomatic recognition and passports.

Before the Allied victory in World War One, after which the British and French took crayons and erasers to the map of the Middle East with very little concern for the wishes of the actual inhabitants, the area that is now Iraq was divided into three Ottoman valiyets, or provinces, centered around the major cities in the region: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul.