Dr. Henri Habib – Professor Emeritus, Concordia University

EVENT DATE: November 9, 2006
TOPIC: Dynamics of Iraqi Politics

Dr. Habib provided the audience of over 100 interested listeners with a very comprehensive overview of the historical and current perspective on the politics of Iraq, an artificial nation comprising three key separate territorial realms of Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites.  He included lucid descriptions of the ethnic players involved and the impact of the deeply-rooted historical experiences mainly of the Shiites and the Sunnis within the territories of the middle-east countries of Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Turkey.  He focussed on the implications to the west of the historical developments among the regional countries and their peoples.  An important part of the theme was the resurrection and resurgence of the Islamic movement, spearheaded by the Shiite-dominated Iranians, as they manoeuvre towards the establishment of a crescent Shiite “empire” closely resembling the Persian Empire of old.  He related the historical involvement of the Sunnis who dominated Iraq for many centuries, despite their minority status.  He explained the role of the Sunni-dominated monarchical regime of Saudi Arabia, and their fear of the Islamic fundamentalists within their nation.  Among the many historical highlights which are impacting the current and future relations among the Islamic peoples and nations, and between the Islamic and Non-Islamic nations, were the great impact of key events in the seventh century on the pilgrim behaviours in both Saudi Arabia (Sunnis) and Iraq (Shiites).  He provided his perspective of the dangers to non-Islamic nations (USA, Canada, the European Union, etc) of ignoring the harsh realities of the great significance to Islamic peoples of these key historic events.  Dr. Habib noted that Iran’s aspirations are increasing just as Iraq’s are disappearing -perhaps forever.  The ultimate outcome will be a resurrection of the Persian Empire.  He also explained that Hezbollah, not previously given much consideration, is now an arm of Iran.   Iran’s aspirations were assisted by the U.S.  attack on the Taliban and the crushing of Saddam Hussein.  The U.S. has displayed and continues to display no understanding of the history of the area or the religious and ethnic crosscurrents that are centuries old.  Henri mentioned to watch for the emergence of Iran and its Hezbollah ‘arm’ and for Turkey and Israel to gain strength in the area.  He indicated there are no Arab leaders to address the situation.  The U.S.A. would be well served by putting their Ambassador back in Damascus and to become a nation much better in the diplomatic area.  He does not hold out much hope for the Saudi regime, an area with most of the oil and with links to the U.S.  Dr. Habib answered a large number of questions from the audience with the same clarity and completeness as his delivery of the highly effective overview.  In answer to one of the questions he indicated that he sees little hope for any positive outcome in Afghanistan and he regrets our Canadian involvement in that area.  Overall, Dr. Habib provided listeners with a comprehensive framework within which witnesses of the Islamic “revolution” can view past, current, and future events related to the interrelationships among the various factions within Shiites and Sunnis, and among the nations involved in the continuing struggles of Islamic versus non-Islamic peoples.

Summary by Bruce Morris