Mongolia and Iraq

The Iraq War is the reason given by many conservatives abandoning the GOP, and choosing to support Obama over McCain - the Obamacons. It's not that we were always against it - though I was never enthusiastic - it's just that committing for as long as is needed just seems too open-ended. 100 years is too long to fight for something - either change comes from inside, or we must admit that the change is not wanted or possible.

It seems that more and more countries have also abandoned the US-led liberation of Iraq: 'Coalition of the willing' dwindles is Monday's ABC News (Oz) headline. Admittedly they're only down from 49 Allies in March 2003 to 24 last week. Amongst those still in place are the Mongolians, who today confirmed that they will remain in Iraq for a fifth year.

The Mongolian participation was a bit of a surprise - apparently they volunteered rather than being asked to take part - and one which has caused a few raised "issues" for some Iraqis. The reason is simple. Many centuries ago Mongol hoards left the Steppes and set off to invade Europe and the Middle East. One grandson of Ghengis Khan, Hulagu, conquered and settled much of what is modern Iraq and Iran.
The Battle of Baghdad was particularly vicious, and Hulagu "razed" the city in 1258 - whether he physically destroyed the city, or if this is a literary topos is still debated. His policy had been to spare and assimilate into his army those who had surrendered, and since he had gone through Iran first on his way to Baghdad, Hulagu's army included a number of Shiites. The inhabitants of Baghdad were Sunni, and some still blame the Shiites for 'aiding' the Mongols to take Baghdad.

Although the events of 1258 should have long ago been consigned to history, the Mongolian contingent seems to have re-opened old wounds. Sunni Al Qaeda used them as part of their anti-Shiite propaganda in 2005.

The Il-Khanid Dynasty, founded by the Mongols, created the first certain images of Mohammed. Paintings of the Prophet were amongst those used to illustrate Universal Histories, such as this depiction of his birth in the Edinburgh Jami‘ al-tavarikh. By encouraging learning, the Il-Khanids created a flourishing of Islamic culture. It's a pity their descendants are having less luck in Iraq. [image source]

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