In his new book from Oxford University Press, Samuel Helfont investigates the roots of the religious insurgencies which erupted in Iraq following the American-led invasion in 2003. This book relies on access to the former regime’s internal archives and secret files to challenge many of the underlying assumptions of American plans to occupy and rebuild Iraq. When the American-led invasion destroyed the regime’s authoritarian structures in 2003, it unleashed the forces that these structures were designed to contain, creating an atmosphere infused with religion, but lacking the checks provided by the former regime. Groups such as the Sadrists, al-Qaida in Iraq, and eventually the Islamic State emerged out of that context to tear the country apart.
Samuel Helfont is a Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Program on the Middle East, and holds a post-doctoral lectureship in the University of Pennsylvania’s interdisciplinary International Relations Program. In May 2015, he completed a PhD in Princeton University’s Near Eastern Studies Department, where he wrote his dissertation on Saddam Hussein’s instrumentalization of religion as well as its legacy beyond 2003. His research is based on newly-available Ba’th Party and Iraqi state records.
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Samuel Helfont - Samuel Helfont is a Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Middle East Program, and an Assistant Professor of Strategy and Policy at the Naval War College's program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.