The Myth of Saddam Hussein Lives On

Feb. 20 2017

Last December, thousands of people in the Middle East took to social media to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Iraqi dictator’s execution. Some even gathered in person for informal memorial services. Gilad Shiloach comments:

The support for Saddam . . . shows that many still consider him a symbol of Arab nationalism and that, a decade after his death, he is still popular in some Middle Eastern circles, perhaps more so among [non-Iraqis]. . . . From [his admirers’] perspective, . . . “Islamic State would not have come about under Saddam,” and his mortal enemies from neighboring Iran are the main beneficiaries of his ousting. . . . Others . . . wrote that the day Saddam was executed was also “the day that Iraq was put to death,” and protested the fact that Americans had turned Iraq over “to the filthiest creatures of Allah—Shiites.”

Within Islamic State (IS), [however], there is also commemoration of Saddam, with posters of him displayed in the organization’s explosives factories and command posts in Sunni strongholds like Fallujah. This symbolism [reflects the fact] that many senior officers in IS are former officials of Saddam’s regime. . . .

The events that occurred in the Middle East following Saddam Hussein’s ouster in 2003 led to his centrality in a number of myths. The most prevalent narrative in [social-media] posts published by Sunnis represents Saddam as the ultimate defender of Arabism against Iranian-Shiite expansionism. These posts laud Saddam’s success in maintaining the region’s—and especially Iraq’s—Arab identity and territorial integrity.

There is no disputing that Baghdad, currently under Shiite leadership, no longer serves as a counterbalance to Tehran’s influence. As Iran strives to achieve regional hegemony, Iraq has ceased to play a central role in the Arab world and the Persian Gulf. Instead, Iraq has become a failed state, succumbing to Sunni-Shiite conflict and jihadist terrorism. As such, expressions of support for Saddam . . . were more extensive this year [than previously].

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More about: Arab World, Iran, Iraq, Politics & Current Affairs, Saddam Hussein

The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics