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Iraq: People, History, Politics

ISBN: 978-0-7456-3226-1
280 pages
April 2007, Polity
Iraq: People, History, Politics (0745632262) cover image
The removal of the regime of Saddam Hussein and the reconstruction of the Iraqi state were critical components of US foreign policy towards the Middle East in the aftermath of 9/11. It was hoped that Iraq, free from the oppression of Saddam's tyranny, would be transformed into a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. Iraq has indeed been transformed, but into a zone of instability.

With Saddam's regime no more, Iraq has turned into a morass of competing ethno-sectarian political and social forces, in stark contrast to the views expressed by Western and Middle Eastern commentators alike before the US-led invasion, who commonly believed in the strength of Iraqi nationalism. Why did this fragmentation occur? Have Sunni–Shii tensions always been present? Are the Kurds seeking secession, or accommodation within the state? What has been the social and political impact of years of dictatorship, war and hardship? And why have US attempts to restructure the Iraqi state resulted in Iraq being on the verge of becoming a failed state, rather than the first democratic domino in the Middle East?

In this timely new book, Gareth Stansfield explores these questions and frames them in an analysis which takes into account Iraq's diverse society, and the geopolitical interventions of regional states and great powers. He concludes with an assessment of Iraq since the removal of Saddam.

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  • Contents
  • Preface and Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: Artificiality, Identity, Dictatorship, and State-Building
  • Four Key Debates
  • Analytical Theme
  • Book Outline
  • Chapter 1: Legacies of Civilizations and Empires Ancient Civilizations
  • The Islamic Conquest
  • The Ottoman Empire
  • Chapter 2: State Formation, Monarchy, and Mandate, 1918-1932
  • The Artificiality Debate
  • The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire
  • Planning the Carve-Up
  • Occupation and Uprising
  • The Cairo Conference
  • The New State and Enduring Pathologies
  • The End of the Mandate
  • Chapter 3: Conceptualizing Iraqi Society
  • The Identity Debate
  • Nationalism
  • The Sunni-Shi’i Divide
  • The Kurds
  • The Assyrians and Turkmens
  • Identity and the State
  • Chapter 4: From Authoritarian to Totalitarian State, 1933-1979
  • The Dictator Debate
  • The Military in Politics
  • The Role of the Military and the Communalization of Political Life
  • The Intensification of Anti-Imperialist Sentiment
  • Towards Totalitarianism
  • The Totalitarian State
  • Chapter 5: Iraq at War, 1979-1989
  • History of Iran-Iraq Relations
  • The Kurdish War
  • The Decline into War with Iran
  • Iraq Advances
  • Iran Counterattacks
  • The Kurdish Threat
  • The Tanker War
  • The Political and Economic Impact on Iraq
  • Towards Kuwait
  • Chapter 6: The Pariah State, 1989-2003
  • Toward War
  • The Invasion of Kuwait
  • Operation ‘Desert Storm’
  • The Uprisings
  • The Coalescing of Opposition Movements
  • Sanctions on Iraq
  • The Arrival of the Inspectors
  • Defection
  • The Failed Coups
  • The Opposition Defeated and Kurdistan Divided
  • Oil for Food
  • Sanctions Busting
  • Hide and Seek with UNSCOM
  • Toward Invasion
  • Chapter 7: Regime Change, 2003-
  • The State Building and Democratization Debate
  • Operation ‘Iraqi Freedom’
  • The Chaotic Devolution of Political Authority
  • The Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council
  • The Transitional Administrative Law
  • The Iraqi Interim Government
  • Shi’i Rebellion and Sunni Insurgencies
  • January 2005 Elections
  • Constitutional Negotiations
  • The Referendum
  • December 2005 Elections
  • Staring Into the Abyss
  • Conclusion: The Passing of Thresholds?
  • Making Sense of the Debates
  • The Government of Nouri al-Maliki
  • The Passing of Nebulous Thresholds
  • Chronology
  • Internet Sites
  • Bibliography
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Gareth Stansfield is Lecturer in Middle East Politics at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter.
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  • Another volume in Polity's new series on global political hot spots.
  • Offers a compelling analysis of conflict in one of the world's most notorious political hot spots.
  • Presents a clear, succinct and balanced appraisal of how the current Iraq crisis has developed.
  • Takes into account Iraq's diverse society, and the geopolitical interventions of regional states and great powers which have contributed to the tortured political development of Iraq.
  • Explores the social, political and economic impact on the people of Iraq after years of war, deprivation and hardship.
  • Concludes with an assessment of Iraq since the removal of Saddam, and what may be in store for the people of this tragic country in future years.
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“If you want to understand why Iraq's problems seem so intractable, read Gareth Stansfield's superb analysis of Iraqi society and politics, the psyche of its peoples and the construct of its state.”

“The policy elite in the West needs exactly this kind of book to better understand the politics of this troubled state.”
International Affairs

“Provides an enormously useful overview of four ‘key debates’ that have defined Iraq since its formation.”
Geographical Journal

“As an academic textbook on Iraq, one could not really ask for much more in the current market place of pop-analysis ... Stansfield has no competition.”
Muslim World Book Review

“A well-written and accessible introduction to Iraqi politics.”
Political Studies Review

“Gareth Stansfield’s Iraq is a unique piece of research on post-conflict Iraq; it is meticulous, profound and, more importantly, timely and cool. Timely, because the Iraq syndrome has become the main topic of debate worldwide, and new strategic choices could well be pending; and “cool” because the heat of debate going on is generated by ideological discourses, political jockeying and partisan self-interest that partly at least distort the view. A cool-headed, multidimensional examination from objective scholars is a must.”
Faleh A. Jabar, Birkbeck College, London and Exeter Universities, and the Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies

“This book is essential reading for anyone who cares about what is transpiring in Iraq and the modern Middle East; even specialists in Iraqi politics will find much to provoke new ways in which to view and understand the region.”
Eric Davis, Rutgers University

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