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Questions about Authoritarianism. The Case of Iraq. Map of Iraq. Background on Iraq: Four Points To Remember. Iraq did not exist as a state prior to 1921. Created from 3 Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, & Basra Diverse Population Religious divisions: Sunnis, Shiites (& Christians)

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background on iraq four points to remember
Background on Iraq:Four Points To Remember
  • Iraq did not exist as a state prior to 1921.
      • Created from 3 Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, & Basra
  • Diverse Population
      • Religious divisions: Sunnis, Shiites (& Christians)
      • Ethno-linguistic divisions: Arabs, Kurds
      • Population: 60% Shiite Arab; 15% Sunni Arab; 20% Kurd (mostly Sunnis)
      • Urban-Rural divisions
  • British invasion and colonial administration
      • Nov 1914 British invasion
  • Imported monarchy
      • 1921 Faisal from Arabia becomes king. Iraq gains formal independence in 1932.
question 1

Question #1

Why did Iraq’s constitutional monarchy collapse?

Faisal I, 1st king of Iraq

Photos from

Iraq as Constitutional Monarchy: Formal Institutions of the State
  • King (a new institution)
    • Supreme head of state
    • Could open & dissolve Parliament
    • Confirms laws
    • Selects PM
    • Could grant pardons, issue special ordinances
  • Parliament
    • Shares legislative power with the king
    • Appointed Senate & elected chamber of deputies
How politics really worked: actual power
  • Monarchy
    • Infighting = ineffective PM & Parliament
  • Tribal chiefs
    • Re-empowered by Britain
  • Britain
    • Retained military bases, control of Iraqi foreign policy, control over Iraq’s finances, advisors
    • How did the British retain control?
      • Divide and rule: country vs town; tribe vs king; tribe vs tribe
      • Military force (especially air power)

“If the writ of King Faisal runs effectively throughout his kingdom it is entirely due to British aeroplanes. If the aeroplanes were removed tomorrow, the whole structure would invariably fall to pieces.”

- British Secretary of State report on Iraq, 1925

results catch 22s
Results: Catch 22s
  • Fledgling sense of Iraqi national identity but “two Iraqs” and no real independence
  • King wants independence but relies on British to maintain power
  • British support undermines state legitimacy but necessary for maintaining power
  • Centralization of power in Baghdad but British support for tribes
  • to create mass support, land reform needed, but narrow base of state support requires some aid from tribal leaders
  • Sunni dominance but Shiite majority
end of the monarchy
End of the monarchy
  • Retreat: Fading Monarch and Rising Army
  • Threat: New political actors and ideologies
    • The Iraqi Communist Party (1935)
    • The Baath (Resurrection) Party (1952)
      • Arab nationalist, secular, Arab socialist, anti-imperialist, populist, revolutionary (not reformist)
    • Egypt and Pan-Arabism
  • Coups
    • 1958 Iraqi “Revolution”
    • 1963 and 1968 coups

Abd al Karim Qasim, President of Iraq, 1958-1963

  • Violence becomes entrenched part of Iraqi political culture
    • Army influence over politics prevents civilian access, impedes societal coalition building
      • Between 1958 and 1968 more than 10 coups and attempted coups, two armed rebellions, semicontinuous civil war with the Kurds.
      • 25-35% of all cabinet posts held by military men
      • Three presidents, most PMs, and almost all ministers of interior and defense were ex-military men
  • Newly independent foreign policy
  • Some land reforms & sporadic inclusion of Shiites & Kurds into the political process
iraq as a single party oligarchy

Iraq as a single-party oligarchy

Rule by the Ba’ath Party, 1968-1980s

question 2

Question #2

How did the Baath Party assert

and maintain power?

1 oil
1. Oil
  • Nationalization of the Iraq Petroleum Company in 1972 + OPEC oil embargo and hike in prices in 1973 = skyrocketing oil revenues for Ba’th use
  • 1968 oil revenues: $476 million; 1980- $26 billion
  • In 1979 Iraq’s oil production second only to Saudi Arabia’s in oil-producing states of the Persian Gulf.
2 social welfare
reduction of taxes

Subsidies for basic food

Free, high quality health care

No university tuition fees

Improvements in status of women (In ’82 more than 30 % univ. students were female)

Extensive literacy campaigns

new highway systems & better infrastructure

Subsidies of ordinary consumption items

Land ownerships & no taxes for many Shiite peasants living in the south

Extensive reforms in the countryside; new land distributed to farmers

between 1970 and 1982 264,400 farmers received grants of land.

2. Social welfare
3 social control fear terror
3. Social control, fear & terror
  • Baath takeover of social organizations
  • Repression and persecution of all potential dissidents
  •  Creation of multiple, alternative sets of internal security organizations
      • State internal security, military intelligence, party intelligence
      • Massive surveillance and informant system
  • Internal Purges
  •  Forced internal migration to resettle restive areas (especially Kurds and Shiite Marsh Arabs)
5 war
5. War
  • Iran-Iraq War 1980-1989
  • Gulf War 1990-1991
question 3

Question #3

What accounts for Iraq’s highly authoritarian politics? Why have Iraq’s political systems been so undemocratic for so long?