Sunday, February 06, 2011

Saddam redrew maps and renamed provinces to promote himself and punish his enemies

Joel Wing interviewed Stephen Connelly and wrote a great post about maps of Iraq's provinces and who changed those maps and why over the centuries.

Joel Wing asked: In more recent times, what were some of the major causes for all the internal boundary changes within Iraq?

Stephen Connelly: 'The purpose and impact of many of the pre-1970’s changes was on community and cultural leaders, but driven by logical administrative changes as Iraq’s core population shifted from rural to more intense non-rural populations.

After the 1970’s, the majority of changes were national/provincial power plays, reshaping political/administrative boundaries to punish some and reward others by Saddam.

Arguably, Saddam’s focus on renaming provinces harkening back to ancient history (Qadisiyah, Salahaddin), had dual purposes: to promote Saddam, by promoting historical evocations of Iraq’s past importance.

Building up Salahaddin, with Tikrit as its capital, was a matter of personal aggrandizement, as well as dividing threats and populations (removing Ad Dujail from Baghdad and placing it under his “thumb” in Salahaddin); and, placing Samarra under Tikrit (and not Baghdad) had widespread religious/ethnic significance, too.

Destruction of the Marsh Arabs’ habitat and diminution of Shiite areas was, for the most part, retributional, as was the reconstruction of Tamim as a heavily government controlled “Industrial Zone.”

These boundary changes went hand-in-hand with many other actions, including demolition of towns and mass exterminations (Halabja was just one example). Turkmen populations in Kirkuk, for example, saw their homes demolished and the land confiscated in the center of the historic town. Ninewa residents lost their homes and land to Saddam, who distributed it as part of an officer’s “perks,” harkening back to old Ottoman practices. “New Towns” in Ninewa meant mass resettlements to virtual concentration camps scattered throughout the Mosul plain.'

Donnelly also spoke about water management: "Certainly, Saddam’s external relations were catastrophic, but the real and perceived external threats that made this dictator possible still exist, and nothing done by us between 2003 and today has created any substantive external changes, such as an effective international compact on regional water management."

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