Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Iraq Primer

Are you like me in that the complexity of the Iraq situation leaves you scratching your head? Here is a primer on some of the internal elements involved that have helped me piece it to-gether.
4 major distinctive poulations - 1. Shia muslims (majority) 2. Sunni muslims (minority) 3. Kurds (2nd minority) 4. Turkmens (smallest minority).
Sadaam Hussein is a Sunni whose secular government ruled the majority and more religious Shiia with an iron fist. His political party is named the Baathist Party and since the March 2003 American invasion it is the remnants of this party that has led the nationalist insurgency. The insurgency is presumably spearheaded by the core of a reconstituted Republican Guard which you will recall virtually melted away in the so called defense of Baghdad. The other major opposition to the invasion has come from the broader insurgency led by a Jordanian al-Zarqawi. This sector is considered even more hard line and has involved the infiltration of untold thousands of foreign fighters in a Jihad (Holy War). Infiltration has come through Syria and Iran. Since Iran and Sadaam's Iraq are bitter enemies the former has looked to destabilize Iraq and at the same time confront the Great Satan (USA) by infiltrating from the south and east. Many more of al-Qaeda have entered from the northwest. Iran is mostly Shia but remember is not an Arab state, rather is Persian and its national language is Farsi not Arabic.
Sunni Triangle - to the north and west of Baghdad, this forms the heartland of the resistance, is where Sadaam is from and includes cities in the news such as Fallujah, Ramadi and Samara.
Kurdistan - this is not a state rather the area occupied by Kurds which covers contiguous territory in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and even the former Soviet Union. The Kurds of northeast Iraq were repressed by Sadaam, were gassed by him in that famous incident, and have been protected by the no-fly zone instituted by the Allies after the first Gulf War overseen by George Herbert Bush. They sit on a lot of oil in the Kirkuk area and are stable and prospering under current conditions.
Turkmens - the smallest ethnic group, they are mostly in north central Iraq. Their roots go back to East Asia and a big swath of this Turkish speaking group to this day trails back to their homeland in the Turkmenstan area. Mosul, Arbil and Kirkuk are the main cities they inhabit in Iraq.
Nineveh, Babylon - Any of you that are historians, archaeologists, biblical scholars etc. will know the importance to the world of Mesapotamia. The Garden of Eden, the Exile of the Jews, the Hanging Gardens, all happened along the banks of the twin rivers Tigris Euphrates. The wanton destruction of present day Iraq is slowly blowing away our links with antiquity.
Source: inspired by an article in Time Magazine (sorry about that), December 12th, 2005.