Ashurbanipal, the last great king (reigned 668–27 bc) of the ancient Assyrian Empire, centered in what is today northern Iraq. In the previous century the Assyrians had overrun the northern part of Israel and invested, but did not take, Jerusalem, to the south—a conquest achieved in the next century by the Chaldeans, under Nebuchadnezzar II, with whom President Saddam Hussein has famously identified himself. . . . Our lead article, by one of the most prominent American specialists on Southwest Asia, examines the elements that are likely to shape Iraq after the Hussein regime—which seems likely to be destroyed as well, and with even greater suddenness.
Our cover is a detail of a bas-relief hunting scene, c. 645 bc (now in the British Museum), from Ashurbanipal’s palace in Nineveh. As was apparently characteristic of Assyrian wall-mounted reliefs of the era, it was originally painted; traces of pigment are still detectable.