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Lessons from the past for a future Iraq
chapterposted on 01.03.2017, 00:00 authored by Benjamin IsakhanBenjamin Isakhan, S Mako
This chapter addresses four key issues that have plagued the history of state-society relations in Iraq and suggests ways they can be mitigated in the future. First are the failures of top- down statebuilding and the reliance on ad- hoc institutions that privileged small sections of the population. Second are the cynical relationships that the Iraqi state routinely developed with other sites of power, especially key ethno- religious factions. Perceiving a threat they couldn’t suppress, the state made either promises it didn’t keep or short-lived token concessions, only to suddenly U- turn when the threat subsided and the respective population was suitably pacified. A third theme centres on the complexity within Iraq’s many different groups, which have for too long been analysed in monolithic terms. This has oversimplified the complexity of the evolving relationships between certain groups and the state. Lastly, there are the ways in which the failures of state–society relations bred a virulent culture of resistance that manifested itself not just in horrific violence and bloody coups, but also in political opposition, rich counter-narratives and a sequence of protest movements that agitated for change. Understanding these four interconnected themes is vital to resolving Iraq’s many current crises and underpins any hope of developing forms of state– society relations that are conducive to stability, cohesion and prosperity.