Sami Ramadani in The Guardian:
Tony Blair has been widely derided for his attempted justification of the 2003 Iraq invasion, and his claim last weekend that he's blameless over the current turmoil. Unfortunately, though, many of his critics have also bought into a central plank of his argument: that Iraqi society is no more than a motley collection of religions and ethnicities which have been waiting for decades, if not centuries, to slaughter each other and plunge the place into a bloodbath.
The main difference between the two sides seems to be that Blair believes western intervention is the answer; some of his critics say Iraq needed a dictator like Saddam to hold the nation together. Neither side, though, has yet produced historical evidence of significant communal fighting between Iraq's religions, sects, ethnicities or nationalities. Prior to the 2003 US-led occupation, the only incident was the 1941 violent looting of Jewish neighbourhoods – which is still shrouded in mystery as to who planned it. Documents relating to that criminal incident are still kept secret at the Public Records Office by orders of successive British governments. The bombing of synagogues in Baghdad in 1950-51 turned out to be the work of Zionists to frighten Iraq's Jews – one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world – into emigrating to Israel following their refusal to do so.
Until the 1970s nearly all Iraq's political organisations were secular, attracting people from all religions and none. The dividing lines were sharply political, mostly based on social class and political orientation. The growth of religious parties followed Saddam's ruthless elimination of all political entities other than the Ba'ath party. Places of worship became centres of political agitation and organisation.
Despite popular myths, the majority of Ba'ath party founders were Shia.