Discover more from The Scott Horton Show
Iraq War II, Part 5: Lay of the Land
To mark the 20th anniversary of the "wholly unjustified and brutal invasion" of Iraq, as George W. Bush himself now characterizes it, we are serializing that chapter from my 2021 book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism over the next few weeks exclusively here at Substack.
Listen to the Audiobook chapter
Lay of the Land
Shi’ites are a minority of Muslims on Earth, but the split is about fifty-fifty in the Middle East. They are dominant in Iran and in southeastern Iraq, more or less the land from Baghdad down to Kuwait and over to Iran.
Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Egypt are predominantly Sunni populations, and all are ruled by Sunni kings, “emirs,” and “presidents.” Yemen is a somewhat different matter. [See Chapter 12.] Bahrain has a majority Shi’ite population ruled by a Sunni king. Turkey is also a predominantly Sunni country and part of the American alliance system in the region, as well as being an official member of NATO. Of course, Middle Eastern politics are messy, and relationships hang on more than simple ethnic and religious divisions or loyalty to America’s interests for that matter. [See Chapter 7.]
Take a special note of the city of Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, a formerly mixed city on the edge of that crucial religious fault line.
Iran is primarily Persian and Shi’ite, though it also has many Arabs, Kurds, Balochis, Azeris and other ethnic and religious minority groups as well.
Also, please observe the size of Kurdistan. It is a region that has never been an independent nation, and is currently divided between Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and even a bit by Azerbaijan and Armenia. They are mostly Sunni, though are said to be a distinct ethnicity from their Arab and Turkic neighbors. The Kurds have had somewhat autonomous sovereignty in northern Iraq since 1991 and did in Syria between 2011 and 2019, though their political factions remain sharply divided.
The point here is not to reduce all these conflicts to some ageless and permanent sectarian conflict, as those who would prefer to absolve U.S. policymakers of their responsibility for the current crises often choose to do. It is meant only to help the reader understand the basic outlines of who is who on the various sides of the regional civil war playing out in the Middle East today.
Overall, it is the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Israel in the U.S.-Sunni alliance (still including differences between them) versus the Shi’ite-based Iranian so-called “crescent” alliance: the Ayatollah, the Shi’ite-aligned Ba’athists in Syria, and Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon (each with their own interests as well). Bush’s 2003 invasion simply moved Baghdad to the Iranian side of the ledger.
Credit: Michael R. Izady, gulf2000.columbia.edu/maps.shtml
Stay tuned to this space for the rest of Enough Already, Chapter 3 Iraq War II. They will be published every few days until the anniversary of the invasion in mid-March.
Looking to read ahead? Get a copy of my 2021 book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism on Amazon.
Ready to support? Become a paid subscriber and you’ll get access to every episode of The Scott Horton Show a day early and ad-free.