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U.S. should pursue three-pronged strategy in Iraq

June 19, 2014
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ANN ARBOR—U.S. efforts to combat terrorism in Iraq and help Iraqis maintain the territorial integrity of their embattled country need to follow three approaches, according to a University of Michigan expert on politics and values in the Middle East.

Given U.S. unpopularity in Iraq, both Sunnis and Shias are unlikely to support U.S. recommendations about how to resolve the current crisis, said sociologist Mansoor Moaddel, who directs the Middle Eastern Values Study at the U-M Institute for Social Research.

Nevertheless, Moaddel believes that the U.S. must work to:

  • Weaken ties between the ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and more moderate Sunni groups.
  • Strengthen ties between moderate Sunnis and Shias.
  • Weaken links between Iraqi Shia and Iran’s sectarian Islamic regime.

Several surveys of Iraqis conducted between 2004 and 2013 show a growing tendency among both Sunnis and Shias to define themselves as Iraqis rather than Muslims or Arabs. They also prefer politicians with strong commitments to national rather than religious interests.

“U.S. policymakers and the Iraqi public have a unity of purpose,” Moaddel said. “Neither side wants an Islamic government or the partition of the country.”

For more about the latest findings on Iraq, read the executive summary of Moaddel’s “Is Iraq Falling Apart?

Moaddel is a research affiliate at the ISR Population Studies Center, professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and research professor at the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism.

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