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January 05, 2023

A guest author has written the piece below regarding the destabilization of the Middle East. The research for the article came from Ghattas, Black Wave and Cleveland & Bunton, A History of the Modern Middle East.


In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush declared war on terrorism. Under the guise of the war on terror, the United States invaded Iraq, leading to the unintended consequence of increased religious conflict and sectarianism that has locked the Middle East in a state of conflict that continues to this day.


On September 11, 2001, nineteen men hijacked four planes and crashed them into the Pentagon and World Trade Center Towers.  In a single day, more than 3,200 Americans were killed and following the attack, President Bush declared a "war against terrorism." The men who orchestrated and participated in the attack belonged to an Islamic terrorist organization called Al-Qaeda that was based in Afghanistan under the leadership of Osama bin Laden. In October 2001, President Bush authorized a United States invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the current Taliban government that sheltered Al-Qaeda and bring the organizers of the attacks on 9/11 to justice. 


In 2002, following the largely successful invasion of Afghanistan, the Bush Administration turned their attention to Iraq under the dictatorial control of Saddam Hussein. The case for regime changes in Iraq was founded on Hussein's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction and a supposed link between Hussein and Al-Qaeda. By linking the case for war in Iraq with Al-Qaeda, Bush could harness American anger and fear following 9/11 to gain support for the war.


President George W. Bush authorized war in his public broadcast shown around the world.

On March 23rd, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched to liberate the people of Iraq from Saddam Hussein, and within weeks the US Army secured control of Baghdad, ending Hussein's regime. On May 1st, Bush declared the end of major combat operations with the difficult task of rebuilding Iraq lying ahead.


Before the American invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Hussein, Hussein engaged in efforts to contain the spread of radical Sunni Islamization. In 1999, Hussein engaged in a brutal crackdown on what he saw as a growing Islamization of Iraq with widespread executions and the jailing of hundreds. When in 2003, the U.S. invasion seemed near, Hussein emptied the prisons, so later when Zarqawi, a collaborator of bin Laden, returned to Iraq there was an existing network of Sunni extremism. These conditions were exacerbated following the American diplomat and Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority Paul Bremer’s decision to disband the Iraqi military following the defeat of Iraq.  Hundreds of thousands of unemployed soldiers having a common cause with the Sunni insurgents created a formidable guerrilla force.


The toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statute, shown below, was a fleeting moment that underscored the chaos soon to follow.   

Adding to the insurgency was the influx of foreign fighters who joined to create a Sunni Islamic State. Almost half of the Sunni foreign fighters came from Saudi Arabia, which did not support the Sunni insurgence but was home to sizeable individual support for Sunni extremists. A primary motivation for the Saudi support for Sunni insurgency was to counterbalance Iranian influence in Iraq, which increased as the Iraqi Shia population was empowered in post-Hussein Iraq. The insurgency ended up costing the lives of more than half a million Iraqis and more than four thousand American soldiers.  The violence between Sunni and Shias intensified on February 22, 2006, when a bomb went off in a Shia Mosque in Samara, which prompted an explosion in Shia violence against Sunnis. Immediately after the bombing in Samara, sixty Sunni mosques were shot-up or destroyed with explosives or fire. The destruction of Samara unleashed a civil war between Sunni and Shia in Iraq.


Following 9/11, the United States took a proactive stand against the spread of terrorism, invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein. However, that misguided step scarred the Middle East as disputes between the Shia and Sunni communities were unearthed when the oppressive force of Hussein was removed. The power vacuum left in Iraq created a new proxy war between Iran-backed Shias and Saudi Arabia-backed Sunnis that lasts to this day, disrupting the balance of power that had existed in the Middle East for decades.

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