Saddam Hussein’s execution came sooner than expected. Its repercussions may last longer than expected. And it remains to be seen whether it will have a positive or negative effect on Iraq’s struggle to achieve post-Hussein nationhood.

The hope, no doubt, was that removing Hussein from Iraq’s political stage would enable a healing process to begin. But the timing of the execution and the actions of his executioners may serve only to worsen the country’s sectarian conflict.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Tuesday ordered an investigation into the handling of the execution, during which some witnesses taunted Hussein, and into the unauthorized release of a graphic cell phone video showing Hussein dropping through the gallows floor to his death.

Such actions only inflame tensions, as proved by the widespread protests in Sunni areas of Iraq this week. Additionally, Altaf Ali, executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is right to criticize the timing of the execution, just minutes before the start of a major Muslim holiday. As he points out, it’s the kind of thing that can provoke anger throughout the region, playing into the hands of terrorists.


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