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Three years in Iraq: the one hundred year war - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I am not sure whether the Americans knew that they were facing a one hundred year old war in the Arab region. The Iraqi war has not only been the cause of an overthrow and replacement in leadership but has also been the stage for conflicting parties in the Arab region and its neighbors for a whole century. The Americans did not understand the nature of multiple conflicts as they looked at Iraq from a geographical perspective, ignoring the historical background of this area.

Over the past three years, multi-factional wars and conflicts have erupted and American forces have found themselves fighting various religious sects such as Salafis, members of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as extremist Shias. The American troops fought with Iraqi and Syrian Baathists, leftist Arab parties and all their subdivisions, nationalists and Nasserites alike. It struggled with all sorts of dictatorships and military regimes. The United States is simply fighting a rich heritage of conflicts as well as a number of historically connected powers such as the Muslim Brotherhood that survived Nasser’s coup d’etat, the Nasserites who survived despite the end of the Nasser era, and the Syrian Baath that continued to exist despite the deterioration of the Arab leftists and the collapse of the Eastern bloc. All these varying sects came together despite once opposing each other.

When the first American soldier set foot on Iraqi soil, he had simply stepped into a deadly beehive. This initiated clashes with various parties of the region, which launched a preemptive war. Some sent their troops to Iraq, others supported the resistance forces, some supported the political war waged on the United States whilst others financed and promoted this political war through the media and via the support of anti-war groups. All those that lined against the American invasion were not defending Saddam Hussein or his party but rather defending their own existence that had faded due to the diversity of struggles in that region. Each group considered itself part of the conflict and felt that after Baghdad, it was the target of the Americans. This however, does not apply to the Iraqi Baath party that was the first and main party at loss following the overthrow of Saddam’s regime.

Despite that three years have now passed by since the beginning of the Iraq war, the American occupation, and the political shift, I believe that American administration is still unable to recognize the nature of their opponents except as Al-Qaeda members and Baathists. The truth however is that the Iraq war actually summarizes various wars, which have lasted one hundred years and are yet to be settled. This is embodied in the Iraqi resistance, a nominal term for tumultuous parties that have fought for years under various pretexts of racist, ethnic, partisan and political discriminations. It has simply passed on the legacy of the one hundred year war to Iraq, believing that if America were to win the war then Baghdad would become a focal point for change for the entire region, similar to the situation with the Eastern bloc with its parties and sects. By this, I do not mean that the Nasserites, the fundamentalists or even the Syrian Baathists were connected to the former Iraqi regime and now seek to defend it but rather that these parties simply fear the changes that are taking place all over the region, and that are endorsed by Washington, which could eliminate these parties. This explains the deep animosity that has been expressed by all parties including the Baath, socialist and religious parties that once antagonized Saddam’s regime. These parties were not against the overthrow of Saddam’s dictatorship, as they believed that his system was doomed in any case at the hands of Iraqis or non-Iraqis at the most within ten years time.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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