Member Publishes Book on Iraq
Washington, D.C. - In the midst of the recent war against Iraq , the American people's curiosity about the region has spawned numerous publications on Saddam Hussein, his regime, and terrorism.
Washington, D.C. - In the midst of the recent war against Iraq , the American people's curiosity about the region has spawned numerous publications on Saddam Hussein, his regime, and terrorism. However, Basic Books introduced a new book by a NIAC Board of Advisors member, which tilts the pointing glass and focuses it in a unique direction. "The New Iraq: Rebuilding the Country for its people, the Middle East, and the World," by Joseph Braude, stands out among the myriad of new manuscripts, for it turns the world's attention to the Iraqi people themselves, their history, their agony and suffering under the current regime, and their place in transforming the future of the Middle East.
In a time such as now, where Saddam Hussein has become a household name, Braude calls on the odyssey of Iraqi society over the years to draw international attention to this historically rich region and approach national reconciliation. “The process of transformation from the rule of a single party to a pluralism of voices,” Braude asserts, “and legacies of Islamic spiritual and political leadership ad their potential impact on the country’s future. According to “The New Iraq” there are currently 24 million nationals living in Iraq and another 4 million Iraqi’s living in the Diaspora – mainly in Iran and Syria . As the most ethnically diverse country in the Arab world, and the only Arab country with a majority Shi’a population, Iraq , Braude explains, stands to set an example for other countries in the Middle East to follow.
Much of “The New Iraq” focuses on what it will take to rebuild Iraq , Although unable to enter Iraq due to visa restrictions, Braude set up numerous interviews with Iraqi refugees, heads of state, and media personnel in Jordan , Syria , and Iran . Outside of the pervasive watch of Saddam’s regime, these figures spoke more frankly to Braude about what they thought the challenges and needs of a new Iraq will be.
Braude discusses a broad range of needs in Iraq: from agricultural development of the rich Mesopotamian valleys, to much needed medical equipment – currently there is only one hospital bed per 1000 Iraqis; from reconstructing a basic telecommunications network to establishing the Iraqi cinema which, according to Braude, has the potential of becoming the next renaissance in cinematic phenomena; from revamping the educational system to establishing institutions of religious and legal criticism and justice.
One of the key points that Braude stresses is that it will take a global commitment to accomplish all these goals. This global commitment will need to be fostered on four levels: 1) a governmental level - forgiveness and/or rescheduling of international debt; 2) a societal level - fostering civil society in Iraq; 3) a labor level – establishing labor unions to help organize Iraqi working class and keep them from being exploited by emerging companies; and 4) on an economic level – creating a sphere where entrepreneurs inside Iraq partner with those outside the country. For example, Braude explains that there is a resilient group of entrepreneurs in Iraq known as the “Cats of the Embargo” or “Quitat Al-Hisar.” These “Cats” have become enriched in the era of sanctions by stockpiling goods on borders and exporting it through the gray and black market when the price is advantageous. Braude suggest that this new mercantile class can partner with international packaging and courier companies to allow for the movement of goods and yet maintain an Iraqi identity.
However, “what happens when Europeans, Saudis, Americans, and Iranians rub shoulders and compete for influence in a wobbly emerging state,” Braude proclaims “remains to be seen.” The role of the United States will be to spread the responsibility (rather than advantage) in constructing the new Iraq . Vigilance and transparency are worthy of us to seek to prevent exploitation. For economic fluidity, Braude suggests that QYZ’s or qualified industrial zones can be established successfully in Iraq – as they have in neighboring Jordan . This would require customs free/tariff free export to U.S. Iraq must also be able to export to its neighbors – which require that it keep good relations with those neighbors. Free trade agreements, which Saddam has fostered with Iraq ’s neighbors, as well as steps of rapprochement with Iran , should be built upon. In the future, Braude predicts that “ Iraq may soon begin exporting manufacturing goods to the Middle East as well as serve as a gateway to other emerging markets, from vast neighboring consumer markets like Iran to more distant places east of the Oxus .”
Furthermore, Braude sees countries such as Iran playing an important role in establishing Iraq as a model country of religious tolerance and spiritual learning. Just as they had done in Afghanistan , Braude predicts that Iran will establish Shi’a learning centers in Iraq , while Saudi may fund parallel Sunni centers.
Born in the U.S. to an Iraqi family, Joseph Braude speaks Persian, Arabic, Hebrew and German, and sits on the board of advisors of the National Iranian American Council. He is a business consultant to governments and corporations on the Middle East and works for Pyramid Research – a global communications consulting firm. Mr. Braude has written many columns on communications technology and business in the Middle East in various publications. He has also interview in Arabic on the Voce of America Arabic Service and Radio Liberty/Radio Free Iraq, as well as in Persian on Radio Liberty/Radio Free Iran (Radio Azad). A classically trained jazz pianist, Mr. Braude is also a devotee of Arabic music and a semi-professional oud player.
Dr. Braude's views on Iraq are his and his alone, and do not represent NIAC's outlook.