A Middle Easterner’s Perspective on the War in Iraq
Written by John Mustafa
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Reformed Worldviews - Government

John Mustafa is an M.Div. student at PRTS and a citizen of Syria, but ethnically a Kurd. His mother died when he was an infant and his father died when he was a young boy. He was raised in a Muslim home by his uncle and aunt. John was educated in Syria and was an English teacher at the University of Allepo. He is now a student at PRTS and looks forward to ministering the Word of God. This article gives his perspective on freedom in the Middle East. May this testimony motivate us to pray more fervently “for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Tim. 2:2).

Many people have been led to misunderstand the war in Iraq. They think it is a military struggle. In fact, it is; however, there is more. The war in Iraq is unique in the sense that it transcends its military contexts and includes some important humane, social, and political dimensions. Though the war is in Iraq, it affects the entire Middle East region. After five years, many Middle Easterners see that the war unveiled the reality of al-Qaeda, liberated persecuted peoples, and opened mouths and eyes to both injustice and the possibilities of peaceful government.

Overthrow is symbolic

The war in Iraq destroyed the stereotype that a dictatorship can live forever. The Iraqi people, having suffered for so long time under the rule of brutal dictators, now saw that a dictator can be removed, and a brutal and corrupt president can be tried for crimes against society. Saddam Hussein was a kind of legend, a powerful, brutal leader in the eyes of his people and all others in the Middle East. His defeat symbolized the beginning of the defeat of all the brutal forces in Middle East.

On April 9th, the day when Iraq was liberated, an old woman exclaimed, “Now my sons may not die in vain for trivial reasons.” Though uneducated, she saw the link between the removal of a dictator in Iraq and the possible breakdown of the other dictators in the region. The common feeling among ordinary people in the region is: I still fear the brutal regime, but I worship it no more.

The presence of US troops on the border and in the region gives feelings of security and comfort to most people, particularly religious and ethnic minorities. That is why the official television stations in the Middle East air ongoing propaganda against the liberation of Iraq, giving the US military the image of an invader and are trying to convince people that liberation is a myth and that the war is between the good and evil, between Islam and its “enemies.”

Changes for the Better

The war paved the way for some democratic values in Iraq and surrounding countries. Since 2003, the whole Middle East has changed. Such changes would never have happened without the presence of the US troops in the region. Let me give some examples. Women in Kuwait received the right to vote in 2006. More writers and thinkers emerged in Saudi Arabia and began to speak publicly against the Islamic clergymen and authorities. Free elections were held for the first time in Egypt. Syria withdrew from Lebanon. Most importantly, there has been no systemic persecution and genocide against any religious and ethnic minority since 2003, except for Darfur.

It is not a coincidence that these changes happened in this short period of time. They were possible because the war freed many freedom-loving people, giving them credibility and consideration in society again.

The war also succeeded in combating the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, transforming it from an organization working at the international level to a local terrorist group fighting other Islamic groups and sects. The war broke the sway of al-Qaeda over many people; al-Qaeda is no longer the “holy” organization people thought it was before the war. Public support for al-Qaeda diminshed after many saw its brutal, terrifying acts in Iraq. Al-Zawahiri, the second man in authority in al-Qaeda, repeated in his last video release1 the old story that al-Qaeda will fight in Palestine. Most Arabs and Muslims do not take this seriously and some even consider it an admission of failure. Abdul Rahman al-Rashed wrote in al-Hayat newspaper, “Because of the constant losses, al-Zawahiri invented the idea to appear on TV,... All these things refer to the idea that al-Qaeda leadership has problems contacting its insurgents or its supporters. That is why this leadership chose constant audio-visual appearances to keep some of its credibility.”2

A Door of Hope

Do not look at the war only in the military context. It is a war of ideas and ideologies. The war itself did not achieve everything most people in the Middle East long for, but it was the corner- stone in the process of change. We know that the war had terrible casualties, but this is the nature of every change in history. I find myself agreeing with Mr. Massoud Barazani, the president of the Kurdistan region, when he said, “The war in Iraq opened the door of hope in front of our peoples.”3

John Mustafa was an Master of Divinity student at Purtian Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. This article was printed in Heritage Reformed Churches' "The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth" and is republished here with permission.

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  1. This video release was aired on al-Jazeera and other Arabic websites and TV channels at the beginning of April, in which al-Zawahiri and associates were defending themselves against many charges and questions directed to them by Muslims themselves.
  2. Al-Hayat, London, April 7th; and also appeared on www.alarabiya.net.
  3. Al-Sharqalawsat Riyadh, April 7th, and also appeared on www.krg.org (Kurdish government website).