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The road to the ‘Islamic State’: state-society relations after the US withdrawal from Iraq

posted on 2017-01-01, 00:00 authored by Benjamin IsakhanBenjamin Isakhan
This chapter focuses on the period following the final withdrawal of all coalition troops and documents the further deterioration of relations between the Shi‘a Arab dominated government and the Sunni Arab minority. The central argument of this chapter is that the systemic failures of both the US occupational authorities and the Iraqi political elite to manage the nuances of this relationship ultimately paved the way for the rise of the ‘Islamic State’. 8 It documents how, immediately aft er the US withdrawal, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki stepped up their aggressive and multifaceted campaign to undermine Sunni Arab political opponents and to fracture parties such as the secular and Sunni Arab dominated list of Ayad Allawi, the Iraq National Movement (or Al- Iraqiyya). Such political marginalisation and discrimination led to mass civil unrest across Sunni Arab parts of Iraq in which relatively peaceful protestors attempted to air their legitimate grievances against the state. When al- Maliki used violence to routinely suppress these civil movements, he further aggravated local communities and triggered
a series of violet uprisings. The lawlessness and chaos that unfolded
was quickly exploited by a complex web of Sunni Arab militants who were
able to harness popular resentment toward the Shi‘a Arab dominated government to enact their deadly campaigns towards, among other things, the creation of an ‘Islamic State’. Th e chapter concludes by documenting the various problems facing the future of Iraq in the face of the ‘Islamic State’ and argues that the al-Abadi government and the US- led coalition must learn vital lessons about the delicacy of state– society relations in Iraq if they are to win the physical and ideological battle.


Title of book

State and society in Iraq: citizenship under occupation, dictatorship and democratization


Library of modern Middle East studies

Chapter number



260 - 279


I.B. Tauris

Place of publication

London, Eng.





Publication classification

B1 Book chapter

Copyright notice

2017, I.B. Tauris




B Isakhan, S Mako, F Dawood

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