Dina Rizk Khoury
The United States entered Iraq with two stated objectives. The first was to overthrow Saddam’s dictatorship and establish a democratic system. The second was to establish a free market economy unregulated by the government, in which foreign companies as well as companies created by the Iraqi diaspora would have the lion’s share of the task of rebuilding and developing the oil reserves of the country. Iraq. There was a deep-rooted view after the Cold War that liberal democracies only thrive when markets are free and the state sector of the economy is dismantled.
The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the administrative body set up by the United States to govern Iraq during the first year of the occupation, implemented a series of measures aimed at to eradicate all remnants of the institutions that had once governed the country. A number of observers have described this as a process of state building in reverse.
The CPA disbanded the Iraqi military and delegated state security and military functions to an amalgamation of US military forces, foreign contractors, and political party-aligned private militias that were empowered by the occupation. There was an attempt to “de-Baathify” all state institutions, which meant the disenfranchisement of political and economic rights and the criminalization of tens of thousands of people who were mainly Sunnis. This has fueled insurgency and a sectarian civil war, especially in the Arab regions of Iraq.
Iraq was a one-party state until the Americans occupied it. It was necessary to be a member of the Ba’ath Party if you wanted to work in state institutions, go to university or join the army, even if you were not an active member of the party or not belong to its upper echelons. This process of “de-Baathification” thus affected a large part of the population.
In place of the Baath, the United States set up an interim government supposed to be a constitutional democracy. However, Washington envisioned a different kind of constitutional democracy than we know in Western Europe or the United States itself, for example.
The United States and its Iraqi allies saw Iraq as divided along ethnic, tribal, and sectarian lines. In such a divided country, where divisions were meant to be rooted in culture rather than economic and social lines, the only democratic system that could work would be one that granted proportional representation to communities in a parliamentary system.
American policymakers and their Iraqi supporters abroad viewed the Baath regime as dominated by the Sunni minority. To redress the balance and ensure that all communities were represented, they believed, it was necessary to divide power along community and ethnic lines. The constitution ratified in 2005 established a system of sectarian representation in which parliamentary seats, executive power and state resources were distributed among political parties organized around sectarian and ethnic agendas. This was known as reflection system.
In this system, the president of the republic would be Kurdish, the prime minister would be Shiite and the speaker of parliament would be Sunni. It was very similar in construction to the much older Lebanese democratic political system. However, this was totally new in Iraq — there was no history — as the Lebanese system had antecedents in the 19th century and was re-enlisted under French colonial mandate in the interwar period.
In its crudest version, this system provided the scaffolding for a political and economic bargain among the post-invasion Iraq political class to divide state ministries and institutions and privatize its resources according to quotas. ethno-sectarians. The main beneficiaries have been the Shia blocs, which have remained in power so far, with the Sunni parties as secondary partners. Kurdish parties control the areas governed by the Kurdish regional government.
Although these elites may have an adversarial relationship with each other in their ongoing negotiation for a bigger slice of the pie, they constitute a new political class with common economic interests and style of governance. They build power by offering patronage to supporters who become their customers. They appoint people to positions in the various ministries under their control. This is their main way of gaining support.
Funding for this sponsorship comes from State resources. Instead of being invested in the economy, these resources are used to buy customers. By 2011, when US forces left, most state institutions had become arenas of competition between these highly militarized political parties. Corruption is integrated into the system to the detriment of the reconstruction of the country and the development of its economy for the benefit of Iraqi citizens.