The takeaway for Iraq's leaders: the authoritarian tactics seem to be working.
While the country may be better off without Hussein, the sorts of tactics he relied on are increasingly being used by the powers that replaced him. The semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq's north has been suppressing activists demanding free and elections and an end to the feudal politics of the region. It appears the central Iraqi government has been going the Kurds one better.
"It’s pretty worrying," says Joe Stork, the head of the Middle East department at Human Rights Watch. "There are a few things that we hadn’t seen before, like the sexual molesting, that kind of thing. The pattern of using plain clothes people who to all appearances were working with the connivance of the security people, that’s certainly not new … we saw that when the so-called Arab spring protests started in Baghdad in February. This use of 'thugs' who may or may not be security is itself not unique to Iraq; in fact, it seems to be right out of the Egyptian playbook."
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