Today’s interview is with Tim Arango, the Baghdad Bureau Chief for the New York Times. Arango has been reporting from Iraq for nearly five years, and has served as bureau chief since 2011, the year the U.S. completed its troop withdrawal from Iraq. He’s watched the rise of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and he’s covered the Iraqi government, which under the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, was seen as corrupt and sectarian, persecuting Sunnis.
TERRY GROSS: Do you think that ISIS would’ve existited if not for the American invasion of Iraq?
TIM ARANGO: No, absolutely not.
GROSS: How did the American invasion help create ISIS?
ARANGO: The Americans come to invade Iraq and I think it’s partly because the Sunnis are going to be out of power. The Americans come in and topple Saddam Hussein, who was Sunni, and there’s been a Sunni elite governing Iraq for centuries and they come in, the Sunnis realize they’re going to be left out of this, they’re not going to be running the country anymore, so resistance movements sprung up. The other thing the Americans did was disbanding the Iraqi army which created a whole group of would-be potential insurgents. So al-Qaida in Iraq is formed and many of the things that the Maliki government has done to alienate Sunnis they learned from the Americans. The Americans taught them how to exclude Sunnis from political life with de-Baathification and things like that. The other thing Maliki has done is these mass arrests of Sunni men and of suspected terrorists and that’s exactly what the Americans did. So as the Americans tried to fight these guys they would do these mass arrests and they could put them in places like [U.S. detention facility] Camp Bucca, most of the leaders of ISIS were in Camp Bucca and they got know each other, they got to plan, they got to hang out, and so every turn in the Iraq story now is the American legacy and the epic American failure in Iraq.
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