Iraq Reverts to Saddam-Era Flag

Washington Times – Iraq reverts to Saddam-era flag

Shortly after the interim government of Iraq was installed on Monday morning, a huge flag was hoisted atop a 10-story building at the edge of central Baghdad’s green zone, visible to the traffic-trapped motorists nearby. But it was not the blue, white and yellow banner introduced with some fanfare in April by the Iraqi Governing Council. Nor was it the simple red, white, black and green flag that flew over Iraq before the rule of Saddam Hussein.

With no formal announcement or decision, Iraq’s new leaders, like its history-obsessed people, appear to have embraced the Saddam-era flag — the traditional standard as amended by the dictator shortly after the 1991 Persian Gulf war with the words “God is great” scrawled across its face in Arabic.
The same flag was raised over the new Iraqi Embassy in Washington yesterday by Ambassador-designate Rend Rahim and an aide.

The flag revealed in April, with pale blue stripes on a white field that reminded many Iraqis of the Israeli flag, appears to have been abandoned with neither comment nor lament. “I don’t think that flag ever had legs,” conceded a U.S. official involved in preparations for Monday’s transfer of authority to the new Iraqi government. U.S. military officials had assumed after the 2003 war that the old flag — without the writing — would again fly over government buildings as it had since the early 20th century. They were as surprised as anyone when the Governing Council in April introduced the new white flag with three bars running under an Islamic crescent.


The Iraqi people always have had a strong sense of national pride — a trait exploited by Saddam through the bountiful use of pageantry, monuments and rhetoric to unite a multicultured people and quell religious and ethnic divisions. The colors of the traditional flag, which were retained by Saddam, over the years have been adopted by many neighbors as the colors of Arab nationalism.

The flag looks like most other Arab flags–many of which use the same background and only differ in the number of stars and minor ornamentation. It’s not as if this is akin to the Nazi flag of Hitler’s regime, uniquely symbolizing an evil political system.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave says:

    In one way, it could even be a way of ‘purifying’ that flag by associating it with the new regime.