8.6.3        Internal Political Options in Iraq

(This is an archived extract from the book Patterns of Power: Edition 2)

The Ba’athist regime was secular.  In common with most other Sunni Islamic countries, religion did not play a direct part in the administration of the State.  Shia Muslims believe that the religious leadership should play a more active role (as in Iran), but this would have been inappropriate in the context of Iraq, with its large Sunni minority.  A secular State with strong religious influences would appear to be a more attractive model – with a lot in common with what was already in place – so there was an argument for gradual and focussed change rather than revolution.

It was pointed out, before the war started, that in a power vacuum there would be a battle for control between the major cultural groups: Kurds, Sunni and the Shia majority.[1]  There are more than a hundred tribes in Iraq and the tribal leaders hold a lot of power.[2]  There was a clear risk of identity politics ( and an appropriate democratic political structure for the country was by no means obvious.

© PatternsofPower.org, 2014

[1] Raymond Geuss’s article referred to earlier (8.5.5), entitled Politics and Morals, mentioned the complexity of the situation:

“In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, a group of experts on the Middle East met with Tony Blair to warn him of the possible untoward consequences of a decision to invade. The situation in Iraq, they claimed, was complex, and it would be easy to upset the delicate balance that existed between the various political, religious and national groups; one would have to have a very clear idea of what one planned to do, how one would organise the occupation and reconstruction of the country, and so on.”

The article was available in April 2014 at http://www.thersa.org/fellowship/journal/archive/autumn-2008/features/when-morality-fails.

[2] On 22 May 2010 The Economist published an article entitled Iraq's tribes: As potent as ever, which was available in April 2014 at http://www.economist.com/node/16168374.