Brian Ulrich highlights new research on 1990s Iraq:

[Cornell University's David Siddhartha Patel's] major criticism of current understandings of late Ba'athist Iraq are that they focus too much on the regime as the only important actor, with far more attention needing to be paid to the changes which developed from below. What he proposes, and I draw this summary not only from his paper, but also from his responses to questions, is that the central authorities in Baghdad associated with Saddam Hussein lost control of much of the country, in which local officials developed their own informal fiefdoms based on the perception of government authority and access to resources.

Because resources became increasingly scarce, those who could access those resources on behalf of clients became important local power brokers. As examples, he mentioned tribal shaykhs whose claim to influence was their ability to get the plastic sheeting necessary for protecting crops and the respect of letters of endorsement from the Sadr movement in accessing facilities at a local level.

What's the takeaway from this? Interesting and important things are starting to happen in our understanding of Iraq in the years between 1991 and 2003, things will may radically reshape our perceptions of what transpired both before and after the U.S. invasion.

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