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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Read more at Dayan Center

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

Will America Invite Israel to Join Its Multinational Coalitions?

From the Korean War onward, the U.S. has rarely fought wars alone, but has instead led coalitions of various allied states. Israel stands out in that it has close military and diplomatic relations with Washington yet its forces have never been part of these coalitions—even in the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi missiles were raining down on its cities. The primary reason for its exclusion was the sensitivity of participating Arab and Muslim nations. But now that Jerusalem has diplomatic relations with several Arab countries and indeed regularly participates alongside them in U.S.-led joint military exercises, David Levy believes it may someday soon be asked to contribute to an American expedition.

It is unlikely that Israel would be expected by the U.S. to deploy the Golani [infantry] brigade or any other major army unit. Instead, Washington will likely solicit areas of IDF niche expertise. These include missile defense and special forces, two areas in which Israel is a world leader. The IDF has capabilities that it can share by providing trainers and observers. Naval and air support would also be expected as these assets are inherently deployable. Israel can also provide allies in foreign wars with intelligence and cyber-warfare support, much of which can be accomplished without the physical deployment of troops.

Jerusalem’s previous reasons for abstention from coalitions were legitimate. Since its independence, Israel has faced existential threats. Conventional Arab armies sought to eliminate the nascent state in 1948-49, 1967, and again in 1973. This danger remained ever-present until the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, which established peace between Egypt and Israel. Post-Camp David, the threats to Israel remain serious but are no longer existential. If Iran were to become a nuclear power, this would pose a new existential threat. Until then, Israel is relatively well secured.

Jerusalem’s new Arab allies would welcome its aid. Western capitals, especially Washington, should be expected to pursue Israel’s military assistance, and Jerusalem will have little choice but to acquiesce to the expeditionary expectation.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: IDF, U.S. military, U.S.-Israel relationship