Nina’s interview with Emma Sky, author of The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq.

The Unraveling is an impressive book detailing the time Emma Sky worked as a political advisor to the U.S. military in Iraq. The book describes the disaster that was the Iraqi invasion, a war she disagrees with.

Emma was only going to Iraq for 3 months as a volunteer to assist in governance reconstruction, but she stayed there longer than any other senior military or diplomatic figure, giving her an unparalleled perspective of the entire conflict. Emma offers unique insights into the US military as well as the complexities, diversity, and evolution of Iraqi society. She obviously has deep love for Iraq and its people.

Emma served in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 as the governorate coordinator of Kirkuk, and from 2007 to 2010 as political adviser to General Raymond T Odierno, the commanding general of US Forces in Iraq.

Emma Sky is currently director of the Yale University World Fellows program and a senior fellow at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, where she lectures on Iraq and Middle East politics.

Emma is an internationalist who is dedicated to fighting injustice and promoting peace.

You visited Baghdad after you finished your mission, are you planning to visit Baghdad again? What is your favourite place in Baghdad?

My favourite place in Baghdad is Mutannabi street. I love that place. The last time I visited there was a year ago, it was wonderful to see Arabic copies of my book on sale there and I sat drinking numi basra in Shahhbander café.

How was your experience with Iraqi women and what is your message to them?

I have met some very impressive Iraqi women. They are strong, resilient and talented. It is good that with the improved security situation, they are becoming more active in the public sphere.

If you had the chance to go back in the time to 2003, would you still choose to go Iraq? Also, if you did indeed decide to go, would you change any decision that you made?

Going to Iraq in 2003 was one of the best decisions of my life. I did not know what to expect before arriving but it was an extraordinary experience and I met some amazing people.

How did your experiences in Iraq affect your life in UK? Do you currently maintain any connections with the country?

I found it difficult to settle back into the UK when I left Iraq. I felt so connected to Iraq and to Iraqis, life in the UK seemed boring in comparison and it took me awhile to adjust.

Can you share the most important lesson that you learned when in Iraq?

Humans are the same everywhere.

What is your view for the future of Iraq and its development and rebuilding?

It’s going to take a long time for Iraq to prosper but there is a creative and talented young generation who love the country and want to build a better future. They give me hope.


Emma Sky is the author of The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq- 2015 and In a time of Monsters: Travels Through a Middle East in Revolt- 2019.

Read also Emma Sky’s article on The National about London’s lockdown- Covid-19

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