by Azzam Tamimi
I find the theory that the eruption of the Arab Spring was somehow contributed to by the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein farfetched. In fact, I don't see much relevance between the Arab Spring and the events that blighted Iraq during the period from the early 1990s to the late 2000s. If at all, any Iraqi relevance began to form only as the Sunni Arabs of the Anbar embarked on their own peaceful uprising against the Maliki regime. And this happened no more than two years after the Tunisian uprising was triggered by the self-immolation of fruit vender Bu Azizi. In other words, one may argue more convincingly in favour of a Tunisian or Egyptian influence on the recent Iraqi uprising than the other way round.
Undoubtedly, Saddam Hussein was an oppressive ruler, a tyrant loathed and feared by the majority of the people he ruled. Yet, it was not the Iraqi people who toppled him and it was not an uprising anywhere in Iraq that expedited the end of his tyrannical reign.
The marsh Arabs uprising was generally perceived, at the time, as an Iranian-instigated, U.S.-backed, riot aimed at exploiting the exhaustion of the regime in the aftermath of the defeat of its troops and their expulsion from Kuwait in 1991. The uprising never managed to gain the momentum needed to finish what its leaders hoped to achieve and the U.S. and its allies believed at the time that intervening directly to accomplish the mission was outweighed by the risks involved.
The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq had hardly anything to do with the Iraqi popular discontent or any meaningful domestic dynamic aimed at change. It was planned and executed entirely by external actors who brought with them from exile remnants of Iraqi, mostly Shi'ite, opposition. It was the U.S. invasion that enabled these figures to be installed in power once Saddam's Ba'thist regime was finished off. Iraqis who stood to benefit from the change of regime justified the U.S. invasion and considered it, at best, the lesser of the two evils. Yet, the U.S. predetermination that the Sunnis of Iraq were potential enemies, in accordance with the incredible theory of the Sunni triangle, and should therefore be treated as such led to a gradual estrangement of most Sunnis and to a profound sectarian division unprecedented in the recent history of Iraq. Iran, of course, was the greatest beneficiary from the U.S. invasion and mismanagement of Iraq. Ironically, Iran's men ended up being the new rulers of Iraq. You can hardly think of a happier ending for the Iranians to their long ‘war and peace' epic with Saddam's regime.
The model of governance the United States helped establish in post-Saddam Iraq was far from impressive. Opposition groups and individuals in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, the three Arab countries that led the Great Arab Popular Uprising (GAPU – referred to as the Arab Spring), had already been struggling peacefully for reform in their own countries during the years of the invasion and occupation. At the time they condemned the U.S. invasion and what they perceived as a U.S./Iranian stooge regime in Baghdad. Generally, nothing positive was seen about the U.S.-provoked change in Iraq. The U.S. & U.K. claims that one of the objectives of regime change in Iraq was to liberate the Iraqi people from tyranny and promote democracy and respect for human rights were hardly credible. Any claim that such a regime change encouraged Arabs elsewhere to engage in a dynamic aimed at achieving similar results is indeed illusory.