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The social contract and the Iraqi state

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The Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq from 2003 destroyed the Iraqi state in an effort to implant a neoliberal order consonant with wider global design. Despite the humanitarian devastation, however, the destruction of the Iraqi state was insufficient to fracture the national sense of commonweal developed over the modern period. The occupation and implanted new political regime, therefore, focused on the elimination of the widespread and popular Iraqi commitment to beneficial social goods arising out of the exploitation of national resources. Akin to the modern Iraqi state’s effort to develop national citizenry as informed by the ancient archeological record of civilized habitation, a project that met with the defilement of Iraqi culture following 2003, the modern state project had also bound Iraqis to a citizenship based on social programs supported by the natural wealth found under Iraqi soil. With the CPA and its successor governments, the tether between Iraq’s various communities was ruptured through sectarianism and immense political violence. Through a novel exploration of the concept of social contract, this article explores what held Iraqis together as a community and the concerted effort to fracture those ties. The revolutionary government under Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim is highlighted for its role in crafting the progressive and aspirational social compact that successor regimes – regardless of orientation – heeded in order the legitimize themselves. The Ba’thist alterations and modifications are explored in an effort to better understand the landscape prior to the devastation of war, sanctions and occupation that came to confront the Iraqi people with such ruthlessness. Such an analysis presents potential for the formulation of future research to identify successive indigenous solutions to the cleavages found within Iraqi society. Such native solutions would seemingly better inform potential pathways out of the conflagration escalated through external imposition.
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Keywords: Abd al-Karim Qassem; Iraqi Ba’th Party; Saddam Hussein; sanctions regime; social contract; state-society relations

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Calgary

Publication date: September 1, 2015

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  • The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies is a new peer-reviewed, tri- annual, academic publication devoted to the study of modern Iraq. In recognition of Iraq's increasingly important position on the world stage, the time is right for a new journal dedicated to scholarly engagement with the country.
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