Brothers or rivals? Iran and the Shi'a of Iraq
Hunter, Robert C.
Russell, James R.
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This thesis examines the loyalty of the Shi'a of Iraq. While some Sunni Arab leaders have recently accused the Shi'a of Iraq of pledging loyalty to Iran, in fact the Iraqi Shi'a are loyal to their own nation. The Shi'a have developed different identities in Iran and Iraq due to different historical legacies and patterns of conversion. Modern religious-based political activists in the two nations have responded to their different circumstances with different policies. Ba'athist Party programs that secularized Iraqi society collapsed in the wake of events in the 1908s and 1990s. Old sources of authority reemerged among the Iraqi Shi'i community in their wake. These sources, primarily religious and tribal leaders, asserted themselves after the American invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein. Shi'i leaders such as Sadr and Sistani have sought not to work in the interests of Iran, but in what they perceive as the interest of their own constituents. They share many interests with Iran, but have been willing to work with Americans. The thesis urges American leaders to see that Shi'a of Iraq as they are, not as Sunnis Arab leaders portray them, in order to avoid alienating the Shi'a and thus pushing them further toward Iran.
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