Q: Setting aside Iranian and other outside influence, do you view Shiite-Sunni rivalry and cultural-political organization of Iraqi society as modifiable or irreparably fixed?
A: It wasn’t much of a problem in the past – there was a time when Sunni and Shia Islamists cooperated against the influence of Sunni and Shia Arab nationalists. The problem of authoritarianism inevitably exposed that Sunnis controlled the top, and the rise of Islamism region wide pushed the Shiite protesters of the 1970’s to clash with the Sunni security apparatus. (The first major clash was in 1936 during which a Shiite revolt was brutally put down). The rise of Shiite Islamism in neighbouring Iran created a collusion between Arab nationalism and Sunni Islamism that persists today. Even Lebanese and Syrian Shiites and Alawis are publicly vilified as Persians in all kinds of derogatory language.
It is absolutely modifiable. But given the damage that’s been done, and the resilience of the forces driving it, it may well last for decades more.
Source note: I asked the question on a closed Facebook group, and the respondent, Abdelwahab Al Jaza’iri in Dubai, provided what I’ve accepted as a very good and distilled answer providing background for recent events in Iraq, and it is with his permission that I post the same here.
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