Publications & CV
This book draws on extensive research with Ba'thist archives to investigate the roots of the religious insurgencies that erupted in Iraq following the American-led invasion in 2003. In looking at Saddam Hussein's policies in the 1990s, many have interpreted his support for state-sponsored religion as evidence of a dramatic shift away from Arab nationalism toward political Islam. While Islam did play a greater role in the regime's symbols and Saddam's statements in the 1990s than it had in earlier decades, the regime's internal documents challenge this theory.
The "Faith Campaign" Saddam launched during this period was the culmination of a plan to use religion for political ends, begun upon his assumption of the Iraqi presidency in 1979. At this time, Saddam began constructing the institutional capacity to control and monitor Iraqi religious institutions. The resulting authoritarian structures allowed him to employ Islamic symbols and rhetoric in public policy, but in a controlled manner. Saddam ultimately promoted a Ba'thist interpretation of religion that subordinated it to Arab nationalism, rather than depicting it as an independent or primary political identity.
The point of this examination of Iraqi history, other than to correct the current understanding of Saddam Hussein's political use of religion throughout his presidency, is to examine how Saddam's controlled use of religion was dismantled during the US-Iraq war, and consequently set free extremists that were suppressed under his regime. When the American-led invasion destroyed the regime's authoritarian structures, it unwittingly unhinged 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, and eventually the Islamic State emerged out of this context to unleash the insurgencies that have plagued post-2003 Iraq.
Guest coeditor w/Tally Helfont, Special Issue of Orbis, Vol. 61, No. 3 (Summer 2018).
Tally Helfont & Samuel Helfont
Mapping Today’s Jihadi Landscape and Threat
Colin P. Clarke & Assaf Moghadam
Assessing the Future Threat: ISIS’s Virtual Caliphate
Mia Bloom & Chelsea L. Daymon
Immunizing Iraq Against al-Qaeda 3.0
Frank R. Gunter
An Arab Option for Iraq
Stability in Syria: What Would it Take to Make it Happen?
Iran’s Hezbollah Model in Iraq and Syria: Fait Accompli?
A More Forward Role for the Gulf States? Combatting Terrorism at Home and Abroad
Beyond Kinetic Operations: A Road Map to Success in Syria and Iraq
A Weary Hercules: The United States and the Fertile Crescent in a Post-Caliphate Era
Extended Research Institute Monographs:
(Philadelphia: Foreign Policy Research Institute, 2009) – 69 pp.
-Reviewed in the journal, American Diplomacy (Jan. 2010).
-Reviewed in Egyptian daily, Rose al-Yusuf, (Nov. 2009) (in Arabic).
Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, a bloody conflict broke out between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shias. This conflict has led some observers to see the entire region through the prism of the age-old Sunni-Shia struggle. However, dividing the Middle East along sectarian lines is not an accurate way to assess the loyalties or predict the actions of various regional actors. Divisions within Sunni Islamism run deep and are extremely important, both to the regional balance of power and to the United States’ efforts to combat terrorism. In fact, the division that will shape the future of Arab politics is not between Sunnis and Shia but among various understandings of Sunni Islamism.
(Tel Aviv: The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University Press, 2009) – 162 pp.
-Reviewed in a leading Kuwaiti daily, al-Rai (March 7, 2011) (in Arabic).
Yusuf al-Qaradawi is one of the most influential Islamic scholars living in the Middle East today. Though classically trained in Islamic studies at al-Azhar, his religious and political thought has been heavily influenced by modernity. This book provides a thorough examination of al-Qaradawi’s views on science, mass media, jihad, international relations, democracy, and feminism. In doing so it analyzes the way increased education, mass communication, and migration have changed the way al-Qaradawi and his Muslims followers perceive their religion.
The findings are based on hundreds of fatwas, sermons, and interviews in the Arab media, and on relevant secondary sources, both in English and Arabic. At the time of publication, no in-depth work of this length had been published on al-Qaradawi in English.
Articles and Book Chapters:
Academic Journal Articles and Book Chapters:
“War, Ba‘thism, and Authoritarian Religion in Saddam’s Iraq,” in Marc Lynch and David Patel eds., Religion, Violence, and the State in Iraq (Washington D.C.: POMEPS Studies, October 2019).
"Catalyst of History: Francis Fukuyama, the Iraq War, and the Legacies of 1989 in the Middle East," in Piotr H. Kosicki and Kyrill Kunakhovich eds., The Long 1989: Decades of Global Revolution (Budapest; New York: Central European University Press, 2019).
“Authoritarianism beyond Borders: The Iraqi Ba‘th Party as a Transnational Actor,” The Middle East Journal, Vol. 72, No. 2 (Spring 2018).
“An Arab Option for Iraq,” Orbis, Vol. 61, No. 3 (Summer 2018).
“Ba‘thist Penetration of Shi‘i Religious Institutions,” in Benjamin Isakhan, Shamiran Mako, and Fadi Dawood, eds., State and Society in Iraq - Citizenship under Occupation, Dictatorship and Democratization (IB Tauris, 2017)
“Saddam and the Islamists: The Ba‘thist Regime’s Instrumentalization of Religion in Foreign Affairs,” The Middle East Journal Vol. 68, No 3 (Summer 2014).
w/Tally Helfont, “Jordan: Between the Arab Spring and the GCC,” Orbis, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Winter 2012).
“The Muslim Brotherhood and the Emerging Shia Crescent,” Orbis, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Spring 2009).
“What radicalized ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?” Washington Post (Monkey Cage), November 12, 2019.
"State of Repression: Iraq Under Saddam Hussein by Lisa Blaydes (review)," Governance, Vol. 32, No. 2, Spring 2019.
"'Going Short' In The Middle East" The Caravan (A Hoover Institution Periodic Symposium), No. 1921, March 2019.
"The Legacy Of Saddam’s Islam" The Caravan (A Hoover Institution Periodic Symposium), No. 1820, December 2018.
"Samuel Helfont, Compulsion in Religion: Saddam Hussein, Islam, and the Roots of Insurgencies in Iraq (New Texts Out Now)", Jadaliyya, August 21, 2018.
"Requiem for Mosul," FPRI E-Note, March 2019.
“Iraq’s Real Weapons of Mass Destruction were ‘Political Operations,’” War on the Rocks, February 26, 2018.
“Getting Peshmerga Reform Right: Helping the Iraqi Kurds to Help Themselves in Post-ISIS Iraq,” published jointly by The Institute of Regional and International Studies at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani, and The Foreign Policy Research Institute, May 2017.
"The Iran–Iraq War: A Military and Strategic History by Williamson Murray and Kevin M. Woods (review)," Review of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 50, No. 1, 2016.
“Authoritarianism Beyond Borders: Mapping the Iraqi Ba‘th Party Outside Iraq,” Hoover Archives and Library, July 25, 2016.
“The Ba‘thification of Iraq: Saddam Hussein’s Totalitarianism by Aaron M. Faust (review),” Middle East Journal, Vol. 70, No. 3, Summer 2016.
“Kanan Makiya and the Rejection of Victimhood” FPRI: The American Review of Books, Blogs, and Bull, September 30, 2016.
w/Michale Brill, “Saddam Did Not Create ISIS: Getting the Terrorist Group’s Origin Story Right,” Foreign Affairs (Online), April 20, 2016.
“Homage to Kurdistan,” FPRI: The American Review of Books, Blogs, and Bull, April 2016.
w/Michael Brill, “Saddam's ISIS? The Terrorist Group’s Real Origin Story,” Foreign Affairs (Online), January 12, 2016.
“Post-Colonial States and the Struggle for Identity in the Middle East since World War Two,” FPRI Footnote, October 2015.
“Islam and Islamism: A Primer for Teachers and Students,” FPRI Footnote, August 2015.
“With Friends like These,” The American Interest (Online), March 6, 2015.
“Militancy and Political Violence in Shiism: Trends and Patterns by Assaf Moghadam (Ed.) (review),” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 27, No. 2, 2015.
“The Geopolitics of the Sunni-Shi‘i Divide in the Middle East,” FPRI Footnote, December 2013.
Revised/reprinted as Tel Aviv Note, Moshe Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University, January 2014.
“After the Spring–Post-Revolution Hezbollah,” The New Republic (Online), January 22, 2013.
“Tariq Ramadan’s Arab Winter,” The New Republic (Online), October 1, 2012.
“Palaces and Poverty,” The New Republic (Online), August 16, 2012.
“Term Warfare,” The New Republic (Online), July 11, 2012.
“The Cauldron,” The New Republic (Online), May 10, 2012.
“Untouched by Spring,” The New Republic (Online), December 13, 2011.
“The Uncomfortable Questions,” The New Republic (Online), October 31, 2011.
w/ Tally Helfont, “Jordan’s Protests: Arab Spring Lite?” FPRI E-Note, July 2011.
“The Arab Summit That Wasn’t and the Deterioration of Iraqi Politics,” FPRI E-Note, July 2011.
“Qutb’s Milestones,” The Jewish Review of Books, No. 5 (Spring 2011)
“A Formidable Foe,” The New Republic (Online), August 16, 2010.
“Islam and Islamism Today: The Case of Yusuf al-Qaradawi,” FPRI E-Note, January 2009.
“Politics, Terrorism, and the Sunni Divide,” FPRI E-Note, September 2009.
Republished as “Politics, Terrorism, and the Sunni Divide,” Revista de Stiinte Politice, Revue des Sciences Politiques (Romania) No. 23, (2009).
“Review of The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State by Noah Feldman,” Democratiya, Vol. 16 (Spring/Summer 2009).