Chronicle of a War Foretold: How Mideast Peace Became Americas Fight

Rashid Khalidi
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The outcome of what has been a haphazard and disappointing process will be pitted against the initially secret curricular reform, with one of the two chosen at the Council meeting taking place June 18 and Unsurprisingly, she is the only alumna on the Council — and she is not on it because of her alumna status, but because she happens to be the First Lady of Costa Rica.

Not everyone is so fortunate. Instead of politically appointed figures, the Council should have many more alumni, who know and care about this unique institution and can understand and devise ways of facilitating dialogue thanks to which all UPEACE Community members can engage in collective decision-making for the good of the institution.

Having too heavily relied on its U. It will either have to give its last breath to the U. After all, that is its Mission. If nothing changes in its structure, the University for Peace as we know it will be gone.

Palestinian Diplomat Hanan Ashrawi on the U.S. “Peace Plan” & Israeli Political Crisis

Given the importance of education for peace, this would be a unique loss to the field of peace studies and the development of the new and innovative approaches to peacebuilding we so desperately need. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS — Inter Press Service. All rights reserved. Republish Print. The Week with IPS. Your contribution will make a huge difference. This is a story unlike any we have previously published.

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It is much longer than the typical New York Times Magazine feature story; in print, it occupies an entire issue. The product of some 18 months of reporting, it tells the story of the catastrophe that has fractured the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq 13 years ago, leading to the rise of ISIS and the global refugee crisis.

The geography of this catastrophe is broad and its causes are many, but its consequences — war and uncertainty throughout the world — are familiar to us all. It is unprecedented for us to focus so much energy and attention on a single story, and to ask our readers to do the same. We would not do so were we not convinced that what follows is one of the most clear-eyed, powerful and human explanations of what has gone wrong in this region that you will ever read.

You can log in to save your progress or resume reading where you left off. Before driving into northern Iraq, Dr.

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Chronicle of a War Foretold: How Mideast Peace Became America's Fight [ Norman Spector] on ciwewukide.cf *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Chronicle of a War Foretold: How Mideast Peace Became America's Fight . To most Israelis, peace means being left alone by Palestinians, not getting along.

Azar Mirkhan changed from his Western clothes into the traditional dress of a Kurdish pesh merga warrior: a tightfitting short woolen jacket over his shirt, baggy pantaloons and a wide cummerbund. He also thought to bring along certain accessories. These included a combat knife, tucked neatly into the waist of his cummerbund, as well as sniper binoculars and a loaded. Should matters turn particularly ticklish, an M-4 assault rifle lay within easy reach on the back seat, with extra clips in the foot well. The doctor shrugged. The previous year, ISIS gunmen had cut a murderous swath through northern Iraq, brushing away an Iraqi Army vastly greater in size, and then turning their attention to the Kurds.

Azar had divined precisely where the ISIS killers were about to strike, knew that tens of thousands of civilians stood helpless in their path, but had been unable to get anyone to heed his warnings. In desperation, he had loaded up his car with guns and raced to the scene, only to come to a spot in the road where he saw he was just hours too late. But no one wanted to listen. Azar Mirkhan had failed to avert a colossal tragedy — and where, for many more months to come, he would continue to battle ISIS.

Azar is a practicing urologist, but even without the firepower and warrior get-up, the year-old would exude the aura of a hunter. He walks with a curious loping gait that produces little sound, and in conversation has a tendency to tuck his chin and stare from beneath heavy-lidded eyes, rather as if he were sighting down a gun. With his prominent nose and jet black pompadour, he bears a passing resemblance to a young Johnny Cash. Rather than immediately shoot Wallach, the would-be assassin goes into a triumphant soliloquy, allowing Wallach to kill him first.

This is not the time to talk, but to shoot. Azar is one of six people whose lives are chronicled in these pages. The six are from different regions, different cities, different tribes, different families, but they share, along with millions of other people in and from the Middle East, an experience of profound unraveling. Their lives have been forever altered by upheavals that began in with the American invasion of Iraq, and then accelerated with the series of revolutions and insurrections that have collectively become known in the West as the Arab Spring.

They continue today with the depredations of ISIS, with terrorist attacks and with failing states. For each of these six people, the upheavals were crystallized by a specific, singular event. For Azar Mirkhan, it came on the road to Sinjar, when he saw that his worst fears had come true. For Laila Soueif in Egypt, it came when a young man separated from a sprinting mass of protesters to embrace her, and she thought she knew the revolution would succeed. For Khulood al-Zaidi in Iraq, it came when, with just a few menacing words from a former friend, she finally understood that everything she had worked for was gone.

For Wakaz Hassan in Iraq, a young man with no apparent interest in politics or religion, it came on the day ISIS gunmen showed up in his village and offered him a choice. As disparate as those moments were, for each of these six people they represented a crossing over, passage to a place from which there will never be a return. Such changes, of course — multiplied by millions of lives — are also transforming their homelands, the greater Middle East and, by inevitable extension, the entire world.

History never flows in a predictable way. It is always a result of seemingly random currents and incidents, the significance of which can be determined — or, more often, disputed — only in hindsight. By the time Mohamed Bouazizi succumbed to his injuries on Jan.

That was only the beginning. As a writer with long experience in the Middle East, I initially welcomed the convulsions of the Arab Spring — indeed, I believed they were long overdue. In the early s, I traveled through the region as a young boy with my father, a journey that sparked both my fascination with Islam and my love of the desert. The Middle East was also the site of my first foray into journalism when, in the summer of , I hopped on a plane to the embattled city Beirut in hopes of finding work as a stringer.

Over the subsequent years, I embedded with a platoon of Israeli commandos conducting raids in the West Bank; dined with Janjaweed raiders in Darfur; interviewed the families of suicide bombers. Ultimately, I took a five-year hiatus from magazine journalism to write a book on the historical origins of the modern Middle East. Please enter a digit US mobile number. Too many attempts. Please wait 24 hours or enter a different number before trying again. For iOS and Android. Standard messaging rates may apply. Your information is used only to deliver a one-time text message.

Your link is on the way! Try again. In my professional travels over the decades, I had found no other region to rival the Arab world in its utter stagnation. While Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya set a record for longevity in the Middle East with his year dictatorship, it was not that different elsewhere; by , any Egyptian younger than 41 — and that was roughly 75 percent of the population — had only ever known two heads of state, while a Syrian of the same age had lived his or her entire life under the control of the father-and-son Assad dynasty.

Along with political stasis, in many Arab nations most levers of economic power lay in the hands of small oligarchies or aristocratic families; for everyone else, about the only path to financial security was to wrangle a job within fantastically bloated public-sector bureaucracies, government agencies that were often themselves monuments to nepotism and corruption.

While the sheer amount of money pouring into oil-rich, sparsely populated nations like Libya or Kuwait might allow for a degree of economic trickle-down prosperity, this was not the case in more populous but resource-poor nations like Egypt or Syria, where poverty and underemployment were severe and — given the ongoing regional population explosion — ever-worsening problems.

They were anti-Zionist, anti-West, anti-imperialist. Instead, and for the first time on such a mass scale, the people of the Middle East were directing their rage squarely at the regimes themselves. Then it all went horribly wrong. The only truly bright spot among the Arab Spring nations was the place where it started, Tunisia, but even there, terrorist attacks and feuding politicians were a constant threat to a fragile government. Why did it turn out this way? Why did a movement begun with such high promise go so terribly awry? The scattershot nature of the Arab Spring makes it hard to provide a single answer.

Some nations were radically transformed, even as others right next door were barely touched. Some of the nations in crisis were relatively wealthy Libya , others crushingly poor Yemen. The same range of political and economic disparity is seen in the nations that remained stable. Yet one pattern does emerge, and it is striking.

While most of the 22 nations that make up the Arab world have been buffeted to some degree by the Arab Spring, the six most profoundly affected — Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen — are all republics, rather than monarchies. And of these six, the three that have disintegrated so completely as to raise doubt that they will ever again exist as functioning states — Iraq, Syria and Libya — are all members of that small list of Arab countries created by Western imperial powers in the early 20th century. In each, little thought was given to national coherence, and even less to tribal or sectarian divisions.

The process began at the end of World War I, when two of the victorious allies, Britain and France, carved up the lands of the defeated Ottoman Empire between themselves as spoils of war. In Mesopotamia, the British joined together three largely autonomous Ottoman provinces and named it Iraq.

The southernmost of these provinces was dominated by Shiite Arabs, the central by Sunni Arabs and the northernmost by non-Arab Kurds. Falling under French rule was the smaller rump state of Syria — essentially the nation that exists today — and the coastal enclave of Lebanon, while the British took Palestine and Transjordan, a swath of southern Syria that would eventually become Israel and Jordan. Coming a bit later to the game, in , Italy joined the three ancient North African regions that it had wrested from the Ottomans in to form the colony of Libya.

To maintain dominion over these fractious territories, the European powers adopted the same divide-and-conquer approach that served them so well in the colonization of sub-Saharan Africa. This consisted of empowering a local ethnic or religious minority to serve as their local administrators, confident that this minority would never rebel against their foreign overseers lest they be engulfed by the disenfranchised majority.

Much as the United States Army and white settlers did with Indian tribes in the conquest of the American West, so the British and French and Italians proved adept at pitting these groups against one another, bestowing favors — weapons or food or sinecures — to one faction in return for fighting another. The great difference, of course, is that in the American West, the settlers stayed and the tribal system was essentially destroyed. In the Arab world, the Europeans eventually left, but the sectarian and tribal schisms they fueled remained. Seen in this light, the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi seems less the catalyst for the Arab Spring than a culmination of tensions and contradictions that had been simmering under the surface of Arab society for a long time.

Many even point to a singular image that embodied that upheaval.

It came on the afternoon of April 9, , in the Firdos Square of downtown Baghdad, when, with the help of a winch and an American M88 armored recovery vehicle, a towering statue of the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, was pulled to the ground. While today that image is remembered in the Arab world with resentment — the symbolism of this latest Western intervention in their region was quite inescapable — at the time it spurred something far more nuanced.

For the first time in their lives, what Syrians and Libyans and other Arabs just as much as Iraqis saw was that a figure as seemingly immovable as Saddam Hussein could be cast aside, that the political and social paralysis that had so long held their collective lands might actually be broken. Not nearly so apparent was that these strongmen had actually exerted considerable energy to bind up their nations, and in their absence the ancient forces of tribalism and sectarianism would begin to exert their own centrifugal pull.

Even less apparent was how these forces would both attract and repel the United States, damaging its power and prestige in the region to an extent from which it might never recover. At least one man saw this quite clearly. For much of , the Bush administration had laid the groundwork for the Iraq invasion by accusing Saddam Hussein of pursuing a weapons-of-mass-destruction program and obliquely linking him to the Sept. In October , six months before Firdos Square, I had a long interview with Muammar el-Qaddafi, and I asked him who would benefit if the Iraq invasion actually occurred.

The Libyan dictator had a habit of theatrically pondering before answering my questions, but his reply to that one was instantaneous. And Iraq could end up becoming the staging ground for Al Qaeda, because if the Saddam government collapses, it will be anarchy in Iraq. If that happens, actions against Americans will be considered jihad. Beginning in April , the photographer Paolo Pellegrin and I embarked on a series of extended trips to the Middle East.

Separately and as a writer-photographer team, we had covered an array of conflicts in the region over the previous 20 years, and our hope on this new set of journeys was to gain a greater understanding of the so-called Arab Spring and its generally grim aftermath. As the situation continued to deteriorate through and , our travels expanded: to those islands in Greece bearing the brunt of the migrant exodus from Iraq and Syria; to the front lines in northern Iraq where the battle against ISIS was being most vigorously waged.

We have presented the results of this month project in the form of six individual narratives, which, woven within the larger strands of history, aim to provide a tapestry of an Arab World in revolt. The account is divided into five parts, which proceed chronologically as they alternate between our principal characters. Part 2 is primarily devoted to the American invasion of Iraq, and to how it laid the groundwork for the Arab Spring revolts. In Part 3, the narrative quickens, as we follow the explosive outcome of those revolts as they occurred in Egypt, Libya and Syria.

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I have tried to tell a human story, one that has its share of heroes, even some glimmers of hope. But what follows, ultimately, is a dark warning.

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Today the tragedy and violence of the Middle East have spilled from its banks, with nearly a million Syrians and Iraqis flooding into Europe to escape the wars in their homelands, and terrorist attacks in Dhaka, Paris and beyond. In some sense, it is fitting that the crisis of the Arab world has its roots in the First World War, for like that war, it is a regional crisis that has come quickly and widely — with little seeming reason or logic — to influence events at every corner of the globe. Laila Soueif attended her first political rally when she was just It was , and the protesters were demanding what students have so often desired — a more equitable world, greater freedom of expression.

From this experience, Laila would soon be convinced of the power of civil disobedience; Sadat launched an attack on Israel the following year. Laila was born into a life of both privilege and intellectual freedom. She gravitated toward leftist politics at an early age. While studying mathematics at Cairo University in the mids, she met her future husband, Ahmed Seif, who was already the leader of an underground communist student cell calling for revolution. By then, Egypt had long been regarded as the political capital of the Middle East, the birthplace of revolutionary movements and ideas.

In the modern era, it owed that status largely to the legacy of one man: Gamal Abdel Nasser. Well into the s, Egypt, along with most of the rest of the Middle East, remained a lesser global concern, still in the thrall of the European powers that imposed their will on the area decades before. That began to change at the end of World War II with the discovery of vast new oil fields in the region, and with the collapse of the British and French colonial empires.

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The war was part of the Arab—Israeli conflict , an ongoing dispute that included many battles and wars since , when the state of Israel was formed. Remembering Shafiq al-Hout Attention will also be directed to the The Syrians abandoned their last breakthrough attempt, having lost since 6 October some tanks in the Quneitra Gap. Pax Americana Al Jazeera English.

But Nasser possessed an advantage that his fellow autocrats in the region did not. This became the means by which Nasser and his successor, Anwar Sadat, maintained their grip on power: play left and right off each other as a matter of course; bring them together when needed by focusing on an external foe. Such maneuvering resulted in many odd political turns, including the first protest march of Laila Soueif.

After working on leftist causes together throughout their time at the University of Cairo, Laila and Ahmed married in That stunning about-face simultaneously propelled Egypt into the camp of American client-states and isolated it from much of the rest of the Arab world. Even more ominously for Sadat, what was seen in the West as an act of courage was regarded by most Egyptians as an act of betrayal and national shame.

This was certainly the view of Laila and Ahmed. Those plans never got off the ground, though. Their lives took on an air of increasingly apolitical domesticity, and by , Laila, then 28, was juggling the demands of child-rearing with her new position as a professor of mathematics at Cairo University. Among those ensnared in the dragnet were Ahmed and his colleagues in the underground cell. Severely tortured until he signed a full confession, Ahmed was then released to await his verdict.

When that verdict was returned, in late , the news was grim: Ahmed was found guilty of illegal weapons possession and sentenced to five years in prison. It presented the couple with a tempting choice.

Rashid Khalidi

For several months, the couple lived as fugitives with their 3-year-old son. Ultimately, though, both realized it was a futile exercise. He decided it was easier to do the five years, so he gave himself up. It was in prison that Ahmed experienced something of an epiphany. By continuing the entente with the United States and Israel that Sadat had begun, Mubarak naturally also inherited the taint of capitulation in the eyes of many of his countrymen. Unable to forge national cohesion by turning to the old external enemy card — after all, Egypt was now in bed with those supposed enemies — Mubarak had devised a more carefully calibrated system to play his secular leftist and militant Islamist oppositions against each other.

Ahmed, thrown into prison with both factions, saw firsthand how this strategy played out when it came to even the most basic of human rights. Determined to fight for judicial reform, Ahmed devoted himself to studying law in his prison cell. Within a month of his release in , he was admitted to the Egyptian bar. This placed the ex-political prisoner and his wife at a crossroads. With Laila a tenured professor at Cairo University and Ahmed now a lawyer, the couple had the opportunity to carve out a comfortable existence for themselves among the Cairene elite.

A once-prosperous port city roughly miles east of Tripoli, the Libyan capital, Misurata was a main terminus of the old trans-Saharan trade route, the stopping point of camel caravans taking gold and slaves from sub-Saharan Africa for export across the Mediterranean. Prominent among those inhabitants is the Mangoush clan, so much so that one of the oldest neighborhoods of the city bears the family name.

And it was in that neighborhood on July 4, , that Omar and Fatheya el-Mangoush, civil servants for the Misurata municipal government, welcomed the birth of the youngest of their six children, a boy they named Majdi.

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A key to that popularity was his emulation of Gamal Abdel Nasser in neighboring Egypt. By spreading the wealth around, he also enabled families like the Mangoushes to live a comfortable middle-class life. The parallels were quite striking. It was impossible to exist outside of it. For all their revolutionary rhetoric, the dictators of Libya, Iraq and Syria remained ever mindful that their nations were essentially artificial constructs. To keep them loyal required both the carrot and the stick. In all three nations, the leaders entered into elaborate and labyrinthine alliances with various tribes and clans.

The strongmen also carefully forged ties across ethnic and religious divides. In Iraq, even though most all senior Baathist officials were, like Saddam Hussein, of the Sunni minority, he endeavored to sprinkle just enough Shiites and Kurds through his administration to lend it an ecumenical sheen. This coalition-building had a unique geographic dimension in Libya. Aside from the historical rivalry that existed between the principal regions, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, human settlement in Libya had always been clustered along the Mediterranean coast, and what developed there over the millenniums was essentially a series of semiautonomous city-states that resisted central rule.

Libya, Iraq and Syria erected some of the most brutal and ubiquitous state security apparatuses to be found in the world. The state also had a very long memory, as Majdi el-Mangoush discovered growing up in Misurata. And in all three countries, there dwelled one group that was deemed wholly untrustworthy, one that almost always received the stick: Islamic fundamentalists. In Syria and Iraq, even identifying oneself as a Sunni or Shia could draw state suspicion, and in all three nations the mukhabarat had a special brief to surveil conservative clerics and religious agitators.

Subtlety was not a hallmark of these campaigns. When, in February , a group of Sunni fundamentalists in Syria under the Muslim Brotherhood banner seized control of portions of the city Hama, Hafez al-Assad had the place encircled with ground troops and tanks and artillery. But a perverse dynamic often takes hold in strongman dictators — and here, too, there were great similarities among Qaddafi, Hussein and Assad. Part of it stems from what might be called the naked-emperor syndrome, whereby, in the constant company of sycophants, the leader gradually becomes unmoored from reality.

Another is rooted in the very nature of a police state. The greater the repression of security forces, the further that any true dissent burrows underground, making it that much harder for a dictator to know where his actual enemies are; this fuels a deepening state of paranoia, which can be assuaged only through even greater repression. By the s, this cycle had produced a bizarre contradiction in Iraq, Syria and Libya: The more the leaders promoted a cult of hero worship and wallpapered their nations with their likenesses, the more reclusive those leaders became.

There was another notable aspect to the posters and murals and mosaics of the dictators that could be seen everywhere in Libya, Iraq and Syria. Heso Mirkhan was serving as a chief lieutenant to Mustafa Barzani, the legendary warlord of the Iraqi Kurds, in a brutal guerrilla war against the Baathist government in Baghdad. For more than a year, the vastly outnumbered Kurdish fighters, known as the pesh merga, had fought the Iraqi Army to a standstill.

But when the shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein abruptly concluded a peace treaty in early March, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger ordered an immediate cutoff of aid to the Kurds. In the face of an all-out Iraqi offensive, Barzani was airlifted out to end his days in a C. Somewhere along the way, his wife gave birth to another son.

My mother gave birth to me on the road, on the border between Iran and Iraq. Indeed, it is hard to find any people quite as unlucky as the Kurds. Spread across the mountainous reaches of four nations — Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey — they have always regarded themselves as culturally apart from their neighbors and have constantly battled for independence from those nations they inhabit. The governments of these nations have tended to view their reluctant Kurdish subjects with both fear and distrust, and have taken turns quashing their bids for independence. Those governments have also periodically employed the Kurds — either their own or those of their neighbors — as proxy fighters to attack or unsettle their regional enemies-of-the-day.

By the time of his death in , the year-old Barzani had not only waged war against Turkey, Iran twice and the central government of Iraq four times , but had somehow found the energy to also take it to the Ottomans and the British and a host of Kurdish rivals. Following their father, Dr. Azar Mirkhan and four of his nine brothers have undergone pesh merga training; today, one brother, Araz, is a senior pesh merga commander on the front lines.

But the family has paid a high price for membership in the warrior caste. In fact, few nations have brought the Kurds of northern Iraq more sorrow than the United States. Searching for a new partner in the region, Washington found one in Saddam Hussein. A squalid new low was reached in March of that year, when Iraqi forces poison-gassed the Kurdish town Halabja, killing an estimated 5, people. Despite overwhelming evidence that Hussein was responsible for the atrocity — Halabja would figure prominently in his trial for crimes against humanity — Reagan-administration officials scurried to suggest it was actually the handiwork of Iran.

Bush marshaled an international military coalition — Operation Desert Storm — that swiftly annihilated the Iraqi Army in Kuwait, then rolled into Iraq itself. To forestall a wholesale massacre of the rebels they had encouraged, the United States joined its allies in establishing a protected buffer zone in Kurdistan, as well as no-fly zones in both northern and southern Iraq.

While the Bush administration concluded there was little it could do to aid the geographically isolated Shiites in the south — they soon suffered their own Anfal-style pogrom — to protect the Kurds, they forced Hussein to militarily withdraw from all of Kurdistan. The Bush administration most likely regarded this Kurdish separation as a stopgap measure, to be undone once the tyrant in Baghdad had gone and the danger had passed.

The long-suffering Kurds of Iraq saw it very differently. For the first time since , they were free from the yoke of Baghdad, and they had their own nation in all but name. While very few in the West appreciated the significance at the time, the creation of the Kurdistan Regional Government, or K. In the years just ahead, tens of thousands of members of the Iraqi Kurdish diaspora would abandon their places of exile to return to their old homeland. In , that included a year-old college student, Azar Mirkhan, who had spent almost his entire life as a refugee in Iran.

It was never a spot where tourists tarried very long. Although Homs dated back to before Greek and Roman times, little of the ancient had been preserved, and whatever visitors happened through the town tended to make quickly for Krak des Chevaliers, the famous Crusader castle 30 miles to the west. There was an interesting covered souk in the Old City and a graceful if unremarkable old mosque, but otherwise Homs looked much like any other modern Syrian city. A collection of drab and peeling government buildings dominated downtown, surrounded by neighborhoods of five- and six-story apartment buildings; in its outlying districts could be seen the unadorned cinder-block homes and jutting rebar that give so many Middle Eastern suburbs the look of an ongoing construction site, or a recently abandoned one.

Yet, until its demise, Homs had the distinction of being the most religiously diverse city in one of the most religiously mixed countries in the Arab world. Nationally, Syria is composed of about 70 percent Arab Sunni Muslims, 12 percent Alawites — an offshoot of Shia Islam — and a roughly equal percentage of Sunni Kurds; Christians and a number of smaller religious sects make up the rest.

At the geographic crossroads of Syria, Homs reflected this ecumenical confluence, with a skyline punctuated not just by the minarets of mosques but also by the steeples of Catholic churches and the domes of Orthodox Christian ones. This gave Homs a cosmopolitan flavor not readily found elsewhere — so much so that in , the Ibrahims, a Sunni couple, thought nothing of putting their first child, 5-year-old Majd, in a private Catholic school.

As a result, Majd grew up with mostly Christian friends and a better knowledge of Jesus and the Bible than of Muhammad and the Quran. Although raised as Muslims, both were of the nominal variety, with his mother rarely even bothering to wear a head scarf in public and his father dragging himself to the mosque only for funerals. Such secular liberalism was very much in keeping with the new Syria that Hafez al-Assad sought to shape during his otherwise typically iron-fisted year dictatorship, a secularism undoubtedly encouraged by his own religious minority status as an Alawite.

After his death in , the policy was carried on by his son, Bashar. A bland and socially awkward London-trained ophthalmologist, Bashar came to power largely by default — the Assad patriarch had been grooming his eldest son, Bassel, to take over until a fatal car accident in But Bashar, while projecting a softer, more modern face of Baathism to the outside world, also proved adroit at navigating the tricky currents of Middle Eastern politics.

Like other middle-class boys in Homs, he wore Western clothes, listened to Western music, watched Western videos, but Majd was also afforded a unique window onto the outside world. His father, an electrical engineer, worked at one of the best hotels in Homs, the Safir, and Majd — fascinated by the hotel, with its constant bustle of travelers — made any excuse to visit him as he went about his day. For Majd, the Safir was also a place of reassurance, a reminder that no matter what small deviations Syrian politics took along the way, he would always be able to inhabit the modern and secular world into which he was born.

As the second-youngest of six children — three boys and three girls — born to a hospital radiologist and his stay-at-home wife, Khulood al-Zaidi had a relatively comfortable middle-class childhood. But like most of the other girls in Kut, a low-slung provincial city of some , located miles down the Tigris River from Baghdad, she lived a life that was both cloistered and highly regimented: off to school each day and then straight home to help with household chores, followed by more study.

Save for school, Khulood seldom ventured from home for anything beyond the occasional family outing or to help her mother and older sisters with the grocery shopping. In 23 years, she had left her hometown only once, a day trip to Baghdad chaperoned by her father. Yet, in the peculiar way that ambition can take root in the most inhospitable of settings, Khulood had always been determined to escape the confines of Kut, and she focused her energies on the one path that might allow for it: higher education.

In this, she had an ally of sorts in her father. Khulood had different plans, though: With her English proficiency, she would go to Baghdad and look for work as an interpreter for one of the few foreign companies then operating in Iraq. That scheme was sidetracked when, just three months short of her graduation, the Americans invaded Iraq. In the early morning of April 3, , the fighting reached Kut. Advance units of the United States First Marine Expeditionary Force encircled the city, and for the next several hours methodically destroyed one Iraqi redoubt after another, their tanks and artillery on the ground complemented by close air support.

Of this battle for her hometown, Khulood, then 23, heard a great deal but saw nothing. There was a simple explanation for this. As the Marines consolidated their hold on the city, they were happily swarmed by young men and children proffering trays of sweets and hot tea. Finally permitted to leave her home, Khulood, like most other women in Kut, observed the spectacle from a discreet distance. Everything seemed out of scale, like we had been invaded by aliens.

Those soldiers also quickly returned the city to something close to normalcy. One of those who came was a year-old lawyer from Oklahoma named Fern Holland. A human rights adviser for the C. In September , that mission took her to Kut and her first encounter with Khulood. She was surprisingly young — this is easy to forget, because her personality was so strong — with bright blond hair and a very open, friendly manner.

I had never met a woman like her. What Holland told the women in the Kut meeting hall was no less exotic to them than her appearance. With the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, she said, a new Iraq was being established, one in which democracy and respect for human rights would reign supreme. For Khulood, that talk struck with the force of epiphany. This was the moment she had been waiting for her entire life. Holland was perhaps less confident. From past experience working in conservative and male-dominated societies in Africa, she suspected that it would only be a matter of time — and probably a very short time — before the forces of tradition rose up in opposition to her work, so she had to set change in motion quickly.

She also knew that, as an outsider, her role needed to be a limited one; what was required was dynamic local women to spearhead the effort, women like Khulood al-Zaidi. When word of this spread at the conference, it provoked a backlash. But Fern insisted. On that November trip to Washington, the year-old fresh out of college met with a parade of dignitaries, including President George W.

Upon her return, she was formally hired by the C. It was a very long way for a young woman who, less than a year earlier, had imagined no greater future than finding interpreter work with a foreign company. Wakaz Hassan is saved from ordinariness by his eyes. In most every other way, the tall and gangly year-old would appear unremarkable, just one more face in the crowd — but so intensely dark and arresting are his eyes that you might initially think he was wearing mascara.

In his stare is a kind of mournful impenetrability that hints at the hard world he has seen. Only 8 years old in , Wakaz seemed destined for an exceedingly normal life, even a prosaic one. That changed with the American invasion. By mid-April , coalition troops occupied the string of gaudy palace buildings erected by Hussein along the Tikrit riverfront and began conducting raids through the surrounding river towns in search of fugitive Baathist officials.

The young Wakaz had only the vaguest grasp of all this. According to him, his family — Sunni, like most all residents of the Tikrit area — was not particularly religious, nor was it political in any way. For us, we were really not affected at all. As she entered the new world opened up to her by Fern Holland, Khulood remained unaware that the seeds of disaster for the American intervention had already been sown.

In their Iraqi war plans, the Pentagon had set down comprehensive blueprints detailing which strategic installations and government ministries were to be seized and guarded. But the American military seemed to have given little thought to the arsenals and munitions depots that Hussein had scattered about the country.

In one town and city after another, these storehouses were systematically looted, sometimes under the gaze of coalition soldiers who did not intervene.

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The occupying authorities soon compounded this misstep. In a move now largely regarded as calamitous, one of the first actions taken by the C. Just like that, hundreds of thousands of men — men with both military training and access to weapons — were being put out of their jobs by the summer of It may have been the edict immediately preceding that decree, however, that had the most deleterious effect.

Under the terms of C. Order No. In addition, employees in the upper echelon of all government institutions were to be investigated for Baathist affiliations.

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The effects of Order 1 stretched far beyond the dismissed Baathists. What the firing of as many as 85, Baathists actually meant, then, was the cashiering of countless more people and the instant impoverishment of entire clans and tribes. An omen of what was to come occurred in August , when the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was destroyed by a truck bomb, killing 22, including the U.

That was followed by a steady escalation in attacks against coalition forces. By the beginning of , C. Wish us luck. Wish the Iraqis luck. On March 8, , the new provisional Constitution of Iraq was signed. The clause that set a goal of having 25 percent of future parliamentary seats held by women was largely credited to the behind-the-scenes lobbying of Fern Holland.

The following afternoon, a Daewoo containing three C. With a blast of automatic gunfire, the car was sent careering across the highway before stalling on the shoulder; the men in the police truck then clambered out to finish off their victims with assault rifles. All three of the Daewoo's occupants were killed in the fusillade, marking them as the first C. That included the driver and presumed target of the attack, Fern Holland.

The answer came very soon. In tandem with the growing Sunni insurgency in central Iraq, through the first months of , a radical Shiite cleric in Baghdad, Moktada al-Sadr, had been demanding a withdrawal of all coalition forces from the nation. In early April, Sadr unleashed his militia, the Mahdi Army, in an effort to bring that withdrawal about through a series of well-coordinated attacks against military and C. Khulood spent hours trapped in the C. Finally a C. With two other local workers, Khulood managed to thread her way out of the compound and, dodging down side alleys, to escape.

With the C. The Mahdi uprising radically altered the flow of events in Iraq. Both Sunni and Shia militias sharply increased their attacks against coalition forces, marking the true beginning of the Iraq war. Despite this, the C. Payment Methods accepted by seller. Stock Image. Save for Later. About this Item Slight shelf and edge wear. Interior is clean, bright and unmarked. Signed at title page.