Understanding Iraq's Shi'is: Evolving Misperceptions within the U.S. Government from the 1970's to the Present   [open pdf - 515KB]

"This thesis explores shifting perceptions within the U.S. government regarding Iraq's Shi'i majority, and their impact on the decision to remove Saddam, and on current U.S. endeavors in post-war Iraq. It explains how perceptions of Shi'is as a radical, monolithic, anti-American sect, were formulated during the late 1970s and 80s, as the U.S. government assumed a dominant role in the Middle East following Britain's withdrawal. During that time, Shi.is were viewed as a significant threat to U.S. regional interests, and for over 20 years U.S. policy had sought to contain them. These perceptions changed dramatically prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, in a manner that seemed to support U.S. objectives for a post-Saddam Iraq. The Bush administration now believed that Iraq's Shi'is were unified, supportive of a long-term alliance with the U.S. government, and amenable to an imposed secular democracy that would be friendly with the West. In the aftermath of the war, such misperceptions are becoming increasingly obvious. This thesis will identify and correct these errors, and will explain how these shifts in viewpoint occurred. Furthermore, the importance of understanding Iraq's Shi'is will be underscored by positing that the Shi'i are an essential element to any viable, long term solution for post-war Iraq."

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