Paul Keil provides us with one example of how Iraqi PM Nouri al Maliki’s lack of political savvy is inflaming sectarian tension in Iraq.
Newsweek’sBabak Dehghanpisheh has another.
It’s the postcard image of Baghdad: a pair of gigantic crossed swords clenched in massive fists. The monument, known officially as the Hands of Victory, is both a symbol of Saddam Hussein’s outsized ego and his iron grip. For nearly 20 years, the swords have dominated the skyline in central Baghdad. But on Tuesday afternoon, 10-foot bronze chunks cut from one fist were stacked haphazardly at the base of the monument, the first step in bringing the swords down. “I was very shocked when I heard they started destroying it,” says Mustafa Khadimi, executive director of the Iraq Memory Foundation,an organization that has meticulously documented the atrocities of the former regime.
The Iraqi government has yet to issue an official statement about the dismantling of the swords, but the effort is clearly already underway. Khadimi says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made the decision to bring down the monument last week in coordination with a governmental body named the Committee for Removing Symbols of the Saddam Era. The idea of erasing the symbols of the former regime completely undercuts the mission of organizations like the Iraq Memory Foundation, which had planned to build a huge museum on the site. Representatives from the organization have sent letters of protest to the Iraqi government as well as UNESCO. “We need to use these two swords as proof to further generations to show what happened to Iraqi people,” says Khadimi.
Like Saddam’s bungled execution, a hasty decision to dismantle the monument could inflame sectarian tensions. Many Sunnis, whether they supported Saddam or not, will likely interpret the move as a direct snub by a Shiite-led government. Not exactly the kind of message the government should send while enforcing a new security plan. “The timing doesn’t serve anything,” says Wamidh Nadhmi, a political science professor at Baghdad University. “This would be a defeat for the whole idea of reconciliation.”