Arab Spring
The terribly violent, yet hopeful activity that began in Tunisia in 2011, went through Egypt, Libya, continues now in Syria and most likely will extend further. How much further? Iran? Will the resulting states be strong democratic governments or extreme Muslim "shariah" states?
Saddam Would Have Survived the Arab Spring
by Booby Ghosh.

We know for certain that the majority of Americans think the 2003 invasion of Iraq 10 years ago this month was a tragic mistake, there's no reliable way of telling what proportion of Iraqis feel the same way.

In the five years that Baghdad was my home, from 2003 to 2007, my informal polling of Iraqis turned up little interest in the rights or wrongs of the invasion itself: there was a general, if grudging, consensus that it was the only way they were going to be rid of Saddam Hussein. Instead, counterfactual speculation has tended to focus on what happened after the dictator was removed.

But events of the past two years have encouraged Iraqis to ponder a tantalizing hypothetical: Could their dictator have been toppled by the Arab Spring?

Shortly after Tunisia's Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak were removed from office by popular uprisings, I wrote a column on arguing that Saddam would not have been forced out by peaceful protests. Iraqi youth activists, had such a species even existed, would have struggled to organize Tahrir Square--type mass demonstrations.

Saddam's Iraq had less in common with Tunisia and Egypt than, ironically, with its sworn enemy to the east: Iran. There, the people-powered Green Revolution of 2009, which foreshadowed the Arab Spring, failed because Tehran was able to deploy, to deadly effect, the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij militia, two armed groups that swear absolute loyalty to the regime. Their Iraqi equivalents, the Republican Guard and the Fedayeen Saddam, would have done the same for Saddam.

That leaves only the Syrian example: a long, bloody rebellion that devolves into a sectarian war. Iraq already had its version in 1991, and the regime won easily.

That's why Iraqis usually conclude that, absent the U.S.-led invasion, Saddam Hussein would still be ruling from Baghdad. Would Iraqis, with the benefit of hindsight, have preferred that? My guess is that they would not.

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