Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library

Iraq: A Political History from Independence to Occupation

Adeed Dawisha
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 408
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    With each day that passed after the 2003 invasion, the United States seemed to sink deeper in the treacherous quicksand of Iraq's social discord, floundering in the face of deep ethno-sectarian divisions that have impeded the creation of a viable state and the molding of a unified Iraqi identity. Yet as Adeed Dawisha shows in this superb political history, the story of a fragile and socially fractured Iraq did not begin with the invasion--it is as old as Iraq itself.

    Dawisha traces the history of the Iraqi state from its inception in 1921 following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and up to the present day. He demonstrates how from the very beginning Iraq's ruling elites sought to unify this ethnically diverse and politically explosive society by developing state governance, fostering democratic institutions, and forging a national identity. Dawisha, who was born and raised in Iraq, gives rare insight into this culturally rich but chronically divided nation, drawing on a wealth of Arabic and Western sources to describe the fortunes and calamities of a state that was assembled by the British in the wake of World War I and which today faces what may be the most serious threat to survival that it has ever known.

    Iraqis required reading for anyone seeking to make sense of what's going on in Iraq today, and why it has been so difficult to create a viable government there.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2999-6
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    This book examines the political development of Iraq from the inception of the state in 1921 to the post-2003 years of political and societal turmoil. Its premise is that from the very beginning of the state the Iraqi project in fact devolved into three undertakings: the consolidation of the state and its governing institutions, the legitimization of the state through the framing of democratic structures, and the creation of an overarching, and thus unifying, national identity. The book is different from other studies of Iraq’s political history,¹ in that it traces the development of each of the three projects of...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Consolidating the Monarchical State, 1921–1936
    (pp. 8-39)

    From conception to birth, the period of gestation for the Iraqi state was just under eleven months. While debates and policy conflicts within British policy-making circles over the future of Mesopotamia had raged for much longer, the arrival in October 1920 of Sir Percy Cox as the new High Commissioner of Iraq, tasked with ending direct British military rule and establishing an indigenous government, signaled British determined intent to create a state in the land of Mesopotamia. The form of the political system, namely a constitutional monarchy, took shape at the Cairo Conference in the spring of 1921, and the...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Framing Democracy with a Certain Indifference, 1921–1936
    (pp. 40-66)

    While the form of democracy may differ from one state to another, and while democratic institutions may vary among countries, the one constant is the meaning of democracy: “rule by the people.” As early as the 4th century BC, Aristotle held the view that “supreme power ought to be lodged with the many, rather than with the . . . few.”¹ He went on to say that regardless of how virtuous a ruler may be, a political order based on “good laws” is preferable to one ruled by a “good man.”² Aristotle, however, was no naïve idealist; he was well...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Uncertain Nation, 1921–1936
    (pp. 67-91)

    If the process of constructing and managing governmental and democratic institutions proved hardly a smooth and easy endeavor, then creating a nation out of Iraq’s disparate communities was to be just as, if not more of, difficult a task. After all, the borders of the country were agreed on in the Cairo Conference of March 1921, a mere three months before Faysal’s arrival in Iraq, and not solidified until the 1926 Brussels agreement. In fact, the shape of the new country, which entailed the amalgamation of the three ex-Ottomanvilayets(provinces), Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra, into the new state of...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Turbulence in Governance, 1936–1958
    (pp. 92-119)

    On October 29, 1936, planes from the infant Royal Iraqi Air Force circled over Baghdad then dropped leaflets demanding the ouster of nationalist Prime Minister Yasin al-Hashimi, who had taken to characterizing himself as the Bismarck of Iraq. Army units began an advance on Baghdad and another wave of planes dropped bombs in the vicinity of governmental buildings. It did not take long for Hashimi to tender his resignation to the young King Ghazi, and along with other senior members of the government, including Nuri al-Sa‘id, hurriedly left Iraq. The King duly asked the army’s candidate, Hikmat Sulayman, to form...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Potholes in the Democratic Road, 1936–1958
    (pp. 120-135)

    During the period spanning the decade 1936–1945 democracy could hardly be expected to fare well. Any growth of democratic ideas and institutions that had been achieved earlier came to an abrupt halt in 1936, as military coups do not as a matter of principle and custom provide the ideal terrain in which representative institutions can grow and prosper. Army officers, custodians of political power between 1936 and 1941, cared little, if at all, about democratic institutions and practices. They were succeeded by civilian governments, openly abetted by the Palace, which systematically interfered in the workings of the country’s supposed...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Nationalism and the Ethnosectarian Divide, 1936–1958
    (pp. 136-147)

    In addition to momentous changes in governance and political institutions, the Bakr Sidqi coup brought to the surface a simmering ideational clash amongst the political and intellectual classes, which, not surprisingly, found its way into the military ranks, centering on the parameters of Iraq’s national identity. The conflicts that beset the Bakr Sidqi era which led ultimately to the demise of the Sulayman government speak not only to the power constellations and rivalries among the various members of the political and ruling elites, but also to two differing conceptions of what constituted Iraq’s national identity: an Iraqi identity that recognized...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT The Monarchy’s Political System, 1921–1958
    (pp. 148-170)

    A number of reasons coalesced to bring about the demise of the monarchy in July 1958. Some of these were structural, embedded in the constitutional arrangements and political relationships inside the country. Others were precipitated by political and ideological developments that gathered momentum in the regional and international arenas, and thus, to a certain extent, were outside the control of Iraq’s governing elite. But on both levels, Iraq’s politicians were slow, at times completely unwilling, to adapt.

    Looking back at the monarchical era, it is hard not to place the major responsibility for the collapse of the political system squarely...

  12. CHAPTER NINE The Authoritarian Republic, 1958–1968
    (pp. 171-208)

    In the early hours of July 14, 1958, the clatter of moving armor through the streets of Baghdad awakened some of the residents of the country’s capital. If they were somewhat bemused by the rare occurrence, the ruling elites were not: orders had been issued to two brigades to move into the other Hashemite Kingdom in Jordan to fortify it against the mounting revolutionary menace of Nasir’s United Arab Republic (UAR), and to caution Nasir against any military move from Syria into Lebanon, yet another beleaguered pro-Western country. The military units, however, never made it to Jordan; instead they occupied...

  13. CHAPTER TEN The State Rules without Rules, 1968–2003
    (pp. 209-241)

    On the morning of July 17, 1968, Iraqis woke up to martial music and the by now familiar Communiqué Number One announcing the removal of the government of ‘Abd al-Rahman ‘Aref. If the population showed little more than cursory interest, it was because this was the seventh announcement over the last decade heralding a military coup. Three of its predecessors had succeeded, the other three had failed. People had learned to wait a few days before even bothering to find out the new list of who is who in the power hierarchy. What they had not anticipated was a second...

  14. CHAPTER ELEVEN Politics in the New Era, 2003–
    (pp. 242-274)

    On March 20, 2003, The United States and Britain, aided by smaller forces from a few other countries, crossed into Iraq from Kuwait and in a swift and overwhelming military campaign defeated the Iraqi army in less than three weeks, formally occupying Baghdad on April 9. On that day, television cameras captured the unforgettable and, a few years earlier, unimaginable scene of a U.S. tank, cheered on by Iraqis, topple a huge statue of Saddam Husayn in central Baghdad. That simple, yet momentous, act of bravado signaled the end of the thirty-five-year Ba‘thist/Saddamist era. Saddam, his two sons, key members...

  15. CHAPTER TWELVE W(h)ither Iraq?
    (pp. 275-290)

    The answer to the question whether Iraq would unravel need not be limited to the expectation of Iraq’s total demise as a sovereign member of the global community. It does not necessarily anticipate its dismemberment into a number of independent parts. But we could ask the question whether there will be an Iraq that would resemble the country from its inception as a monarchy in 1921 until the demise of the Saddamist regime in 2003—a political entity brought and kept together by a central government that had the capacity to impose law and order, subdue sub-state fissiparous tendencies, and...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 291-342)
    (pp. 343-358)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 359-377)