Letter from the editor
This month marks the third anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, an event that, targeting the Saddam regime and its alleged weapons of mass destruction, led to the regime's swift collapse in the face of invading Coalition forces, followed by the country's occupation. Three years on, though sovereignty was allegedly transferred to an Iraqi government in June 2004 and a new constitution voted on by the Iraqi people in a referendum in October 2005, Iraq has yet to find a stable government and the violence in the country continues.
Since the US-led invasion of Iraq three years ago, up to an estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed, with some 50 people now dying each day in suicide bombings across the country and in other attacks. The United States military, which still has some 130,000 troops in Iraq, has lost more than 2,300 soldiers since the 2003 invasion, and according to figures released last week by the Brookings Institution, a US think tank, the violence in the country is increasing. While there were 75 attacks a day in Iraq last month, there were 54 on average a year earlier, and the number of Iraqi civilians being killed in the conflict has risen to 1,000 in February 2006 from 750 in February 2005.
Reacting to the threat of civil war in Iraq following the bombing of the holy shrine at Samara in February and the growing number of sectarian attacks in the country, former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi told the BBC last week that "we are losing each day 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is." Meanwhile, the world looks on, seemingly powerless to prevent Iraq's continuing descent into violence, which, as Allawi noted in his BBC interview, if allowed to "reach the point of no return" could destabilise the entire region as well as lead to further appalling bloodshed in Iraq itself.
Al-Ahram Weekly, like newspapers and public opinion across the world, opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq, pointing to the shortcomings in the Anglo-American case for war, as well as to its illegality in the absence of a resolution explicitly authorising it from the UN Security Council. This newspaper also warned of the possible consequences of a US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the Iraqi people are now reaping the whirlwind, as are, more indirectly, we all.
In this edition of the Cairo Review of Books, we are publishing articles on various aspects of Iraqi history and society three years after the US-led invasion, looking at the history of sectarian feeling in the country, notably in the years following the British occupation of the country during the First World War, and at the actions of one of the most important figures in Iraq's contemporary history. US Ambassador Paul Bremer was administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq from May 2003 to June 2004, and his memoirs reveal much of American thinking on Iraq during this crucial year.
This edition of the Cairo Review of Books also marks the publication's tenth edition issued as a monthly supplement to Al-Ahram Weekly. Changes are afoot at the Weekly itself, and as the paper prepares for its re- launch in a new, more reader-friendly format with this edition we are suspending publication of the Cairo Review of Books. Once the Weekly 's redesign is complete the Review will re-appear as a separate publication of the Weekly. In the meantime, book reviews and other regular features of the Review will continue to appear on the newspaper's pages.