‘Remember Beirut? Welcome to Baghdad’

In an opinion piece for The Los Angeles Times, Adam Shatz suggests that, of all the analogies being bandied about the Iraq war (Vietnam, pre-independence Algeria, etc.) the most apt today might be the comparison to the Lebanese civil war.

Like Lebanon, Iraq is an extraordinarily diverse country, a mosaic of religious and ethnic groups cobbled together by an imperial power almost a century ago. As in Lebanon during the civil war (which ran from 1975 to 1991), Iraq’s communities, which once coexisted peacefully (although not on equal terms) have assumed an increasingly sectarian character, leaving the country without a center.

The void created by the collapse of the Iraqi dictatorship has been filled, as in Lebanon, by sectarian militias and/or guerrilla armies, which, in offering protection to frightened Iraqis, have turned religious differences to political advantage. As in Lebanon, these armies enjoy a measure of sponsorship from foreign parties (Americans, Iranians, jihadists-without-borders, et al) that sense, correctly, that the future of the region is at stake.

Read the rest here.

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