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Q: I hear the new Iraqi flag is modeled on the Israeli flag and has caused all sorts of controversy. What's up with that?

A: Not exactly, but it almost happened.

Back in 2004, the Iraqi Governing Council announced it would choose from among some 30 new designs for a new Iraqi banner, hoping to break the association the old flag had with the Saddam regime. In April 2004, the council announced it had chosen a design by an Iraqi artist and architect named Rifat Chadirji — who just happened to be the brother of a council member.

Chadirji's design was a field of white, with parallel blue and yellow stripes across the bottom. The two thin blue stripes were meant to represent the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the thick yellow stripes was meant to symbolize the country's large Kurdish minority. Atop the stripes was to be a crescent moon — the symbol of Islam. Therein was the problem. The moon, usually green or red in Islamic banners, was an unfortunate shade of light blue — an unfortunate shade because, to many, the color reminded them of the blue-and-white theme of the Israeli flag. You can see why there were problems.

Later in April, council leaders changed the design by making the shade of blue darker, and tried to explain that the flag would be just a temporary design before a new one could be selected. In any event, because of all the controversy, the entire design was abandoned. Instead, the Iraqis still use a slightly modified version of the flag flown in Saddam's time.

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