Deborah Amos' "Eclipse of the Sunnis"

Eclipse of the Sunnis

Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East

Deborah Amos
Shorenstein Center

Excerpt: The Introduction

Excerpt: The Most Honest Housewife in the World


The Middle East is experiencing Post-Traumatic Shock-and-Awe Disorder, roiled by the unintended after-effects of the removal of a geopolitical cornerstone: Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated Iraq.

Four million Iraqis were displaced by the conflict; two million of them left the country. Iraq’s demographic balance shifted and it became a Shiite-dominated state. Jordan’s Sunnis found themselves isolated and without a strong regional ally, and Lebanon’s Sunnis faced an internal challenge from Hezbollah’s Shiites, emboldened by the new power shift in Iraq.

The rise of Iranian-backed Shiite parties and militias was predicted; the consequences of the Sunni eclipse almost entirely overlooked. Yet it is this newly displaced population that is likely to determine the future complexion of the region.

Deborah Amos is a distinguished and expert reporter. In Eclipse of the Sunnis she gives voice to the experience of exile and the ongoing trauma of the dispossessed and displaced. She shows how individual stories have combined to create a new political dynamic in the Middle East that, no matter that it is of our making, we have almost no idea how to manage or control.

Notable Quotes

“Deborah Amos stuck around to trace the fallout from the Iraq War after most other journalists had moved on. And she already had decades of experience in the region under her belt. This commitment to the story has allowed her to see the war in its true historical context: as a Middle Eastern earthquake that will forever change the power equation between Sunnis and Shia, and as a vast human tragedy. These are not abstractions in ‘Eclipse of the Sunnis’: Amos’ intelligence and heart as a reporter make the fate of Iraq’s millions of refugees unforgettably intimate.”
— George Packer, author of The Assassin’s Gate: America in Iraq and Interesting Times: Writings from a Turbulent Decade

“A compelling book. Deborah Amos documents the collapse of a rich culture and society and violence behind the creation of a global diaspora. Amos movingly details the human toll of the war. She gives a face and a voice to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are the forgotten collateral damage of the conflict.”
— Bob Carey, vice president of Resettlement and Migration Policy at the International Rescue Committee; chair of Refugee Council USA

“Memo to President Obama: Take this book with you to Camp David for the weekend. Then insist your foreign policy and national security teams read it, and schedule a time to test them orally on their retention. The reporting here contains the seeds of our future in Iraq and the Middle East.”
— Bill Moyers

“Millions of Iraqis, mostly Sunnis, [have] fled the country, creating a refugee crisis that has only recently been acknowledged as such by the U.S. government…. Amos deftly examines the political and cultural consequences of the marginalization of the Sunnis while focusing on individual Iraqis who have fled to such countries as Syria and Lebanon in the wake of a new sectarian and tribal-based order in Iraq…. Amos’s breathtaking work implicates not only shortsighted American policy but the age-old schism between Sunni and Shia and the cagey maneuverings of such meddling neighbors as Syria. The weight and complexity of the Iraqi problem is on full display, with shreds of hope pushing through the layers like scrub in the desert.”
— Publishers Weekly

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