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Sectarianization and desectarianization in the struggle for Iraq’s political field

Dodge, Toby ORCID: 0000-0003-1262-4921 and Mansour, Renad (2020) Sectarianization and desectarianization in the struggle for Iraq’s political field. Review of Faith and International Affairs, 18 (1). 58 - 69. ISSN 1557-0274

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Identification Number: 10.1080/15570274.2020.1729513


Iraq’s political system, an elite pact justified through ethno-religious consociationalism or sectarian apportionment (Muhasasa Ta’ifiyya), was created in the aftermath of invasion and regime change in 2003. The system’s legitimation was based on a very specific understanding of Iraqi society and the role of elections in managing that society. However, this system did not prevent the brutal civil war that raged in Iraq from 2004 until 2008. Once the civil war ended and communally justified violence declined, other negative consequences of the system became increasingly apparent, namely the widespread and systematically sanctioned political corruption at its core and the institutional incoherence the system created. A sustained post-civil war challenge to the system has come through a series of mass demonstrations, starting in 2009, but reaching their peak, in terms of size and ideational coherence, in 2019. In the face of its unpopularity, the majority of Iraq’s politicians may have moved away from the overt promotion of sectarianism, but the political system still functions, as it has since 2003, with systemic corruption and coercion taking the place of sectarian ideology in terms of delivering elite cohesion and defending the status quo.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 Institute for Global Engagement
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2020 17:54
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:47

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