Regional Implications of Shi‘a Revival in Iraq
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Since regime change disenfranchised the Sunni minority leadership that had ruled Iraq since the country’s independence in 1932 and empowered the Shi‘a majority, the Shi‘a-Sunni competition for power has emerged as the single greatest determinant of peace and stability in post-Saddam Iraq. Iraq’s sectarian pains are all the more complex because reverberations of Shi‘a empowerment will inevitably extend beyond Iraq’s borders, involving the broader region from Lebanon to Pakistan. The change in the sectarian balance of power is likely to have a far more immediate and powerful impact on politics in the greater Middle East than any potential example of a moderate and progressive government in Baghdad. The change in the sectarian balance of power will shape public perception of U.S. policies in Iraq as well as the long-standing balance of power between the Shi‘a and Sunnis that sets the foundation of politics from Lebanon to Pakistan. U.S. interests in the greater Middle East are now closely tied to the risks and opportunities that will emanate from the Shi‘a revival in Iraq.
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