I’m re-reading a lot of Fred Halliday’s work (Middle East scholar at LSE until his death in 2010), mainly his collection of openDemocracy essays. One part in this 2007 essay really struck me, when he outlined some long-term consequences from the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
It has already set in train six major processes, which will take years to work themselves through:
- the wholesale discrediting of the US, its allies, particularly Britain, and any campaign for the promotion of democracy in the Arab world
- the unleashing across the middle east, and more broadly within the Muslim world, of a revitalised militant Islamism, inspired if not organised by al-Qaida, which has used the Iraq war greatly to strengthen and internationalise its appeal
- the shattering of the power and authority of the Iraqi state, built by the British and later hardened by the Ba’athists and the fragmentation of Iraq into separate, antagonistic, ethnic and religious zones
- the explosion, for the first time in modern history, of internecine war between Sunni and Shi’a in Iraq, a trend that reverberates in other states of mixed confessional composition
- the alienation of all sectors of Turkish politics from the west and the stimulation of an authoritarian nationalism there of a kind not seen since the 1920s
- the fomenting, albeit in slow motion and with some constraints, of a new regional rivalry, between two groupings: Iran and its allies (including Syria, Hizbollah and Hamas), versus Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan – a rivalry made all the more ominous and contagious by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Sadly, this stands up well today.