Subject: Economics, Ethnic Tensions and International Affairs
Reading Level: Adult / High School
Central to understanding Iraq’s past and present is noting the ethnic and frequently overlapping religious divisions within the country. These divisions mirror economic and political separations as well. Tensions among groups have been perpetuated by foreign rulers for centuries and Iraqi political leaders during the 20th century. Strong rulers controlled intergroup hostilities or exploited them to prevent a united backlash. Without a clear central authority, these conflicting forces threaten to plunge Iraq into an ongoing state of chaos.
Several strands weave together and occasionally threaten to strangle this most vital region. The morass of religion, politics and economics intersects and far too often collides. The twentieth century witnessed global contact fraught with contradictory aspirations. The dominant role the United States continues to play reflects these contradictions: dependence on oil, commitment to democracy, efforts to combat the terrorism and the preservation of Israel. It is an area of rational calculation and revolutionary values with Iraq at its center.