NY Times Baghdad Bureau Chief Talks Iraq

Tim Arango has been The New York Times’ Baghdad bureau chief since 2010. He recently took part in a Reddit AMA, and below we’ve gathered some of the highlights.

On if America’s influence on Iraq was negative:

Yes, there is no other way to see it. Everything that is occurring in Iraq today is related the American legacy there. The forerunner of ISIS was created to oppose the American occupation, and many of its leaders were in American detention facilities in Iraq. On the other side of the ledger, as it pertains to Iraqi politics, you see the American legacy. The U.S. basically chose Maliki, whose sectarian politics alienated many Sunnis, creating the fertile ground for ISIS to sweep in to these areas. And many of those Maliki policies that have pushed aside the Sunnis were started by the Americans. Excluding Sunnis from political life? that has its origins in the American De-Baathification policy. Maliki’s security policy of conducting mass arrests of Sunni men in the name of fighting terrorism? the U.S. did that too.

On the Times’ Baghdad bureau:

For most of the last two years — until Mosul fell in June  — I was the last guy covering Iraq for us, and I would go there intermittently. Now there are others coming in, and it is great to have the company. We go out quite a bit, whenever we need to, or sometimes just to go antique shopping. The rhythm these days is we usually have someone watching the daily news, and others are working on enterprise stories.

On how he perceives his safety since arriving in Iraq:

It has changed a great deal. When I first arrived in 2010 the entire country was open to me. I could – and did – go to falluja for lunch, on a whim. Now most of the country is off limits. We can be in Baghdad, the south and the kurdish region in the north. Just about everything else is a no-go.

On if he considers the medium — web or print — when working on a piece:

The answer is both, but mostly we are trying to do the best and most thorough reporting on whatever story we are working on, regardless of platform. But during the day, if there is a breaking news story, we try to be fast to get something for the Web. And later in the day we often rewrite, with a more analytical approach, for the next day’s paper and to supplant what we had written, usually in quick fashion, for the Web earlier in the day.