Following its overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the United States was confronted with one of the most complex state-building enterprises of recent history. A central component of state building is the process of political reintegration: the transformation of armed groups into political actors willing to participate peacefully in the political future of the country. In Iraq, political reintegration was a particularly important challenge, relating both to the armed forces of the disposed regime and to the Kurdish and Shia militias eager to play a role in the new political system.
Baathist rule for 30 years and twelve years of international sanctions have profoundly transformed Iraq's social make-up. Tribal and kinship loyalties, at one time vociferously denounced by the Baath, have since been instrumentalised by the regime. Nationalist feelings remain potent, despite the regime's attempts to hijack them. Even religious sentiment has flourished as this once secular state has desperately sought to bolster its legitimacy in the face of growing internal discontent. Many of the forces that sustained the Baathist policy for years should not be expected to collapse simultaneously with the regime.
To fully understand the political culture and structure of the governance in Iraq, there is a need share the background of Iraq’s history in politics. The governance structure is seen in three eras that shaped politics in Iraq: 1958-1968 era, Baath era, and post-2003 era. During 1958-1968, which was the establishment of the new state of Iraq, the power of governance in Iraq was represented in the monarchy system of Iraq being a kingdom. The Iraqi network of power that had the same weight as the political government encompassed three entities. The first powerful entity was the tribes as the Iraqi social system was based on a tribal system that administrated and ruled in the different regions of Iraq and shared in the political decision-making then, and which the state leaders relied on in ruling the country. The second entity represents the religious leaders. Religious leaders have always had strong decisive word for the people of Iraq to follow; and they always maintain their power as the emergency-interference power without which the political power could not succeed in ruling. The third entity is women’s role in the governance. Women did not appear as a very active partner in the political process in Iraq in all Iraq’s political history.
During the Baath era, the political governance changed. The state changed from a kingdom into a republic, which means a diverse structure to shape the governance, not an inheriting system. However, the country was governed by sole party, i.e. Baath part that shaped the governance as a unilateral ruler. The tribal system kept its power during this era. In fact, Saddam and his party, Baath, issued an order which was a law that all conflicts or fights should be solved on tribal basis, which left the country run in chaos out of law or legitimacy, but social kinship leaders govern the system based on their own personal opinions or interests. This marginalization act to the rule of law during Baath era was for the purpose of enforcing the jungle system and that law has no power so that the nation’s affairs would be undisciplined and laws would be loosened. Religious leaders had the role of keeping the lives of people out of Saddam’s prosecution and assault as they themselves were imprisoned and assassinated by the Baath regime. Women had no whatsoever political role at that time. The very few notwithstanding women, two to three, were of suspicious activities and there were allegations that they were cooperating with the regime in achieving its goals of prosecution, for example, adopting biological and chemical experiments on the imprisoned. Therefore, women in general were feared to integrate into the political process because they were vulnerable to lose their honor and dignity for the regime’s corrupted men.
The last era in the political structure of the new Iraq is the post-2003 Iraq. This era witnessed the overthrow of the Saddam’s regime and its ruling Baath party by the US-led invasion to Iraq. This era caused the collapse of the political apparatus that interwove all the state institutions, which thus collapsed within this apparatus. The immediate political structure followed the invasion in 2003 assigned an interim government under the supervision and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) of the US. This interim government could not do anything notable or substantial in such a short time. There were four governments in three years with no plans for the post-war era. These governments were of first-experience in governance, as they used to be opposition parties before; they did not have the required time, but that did not mean they were not qualified. Also, there appeared the ethnic differences that created pluralization and sectarian conflicts. Remarkably, the beginning stage of the new era promises of the birth of democracy imported from outside policies with the US coming. The country at that time needed something of immediate need. US forces should have reconstructed the country in the first place, then the political process with any shape of democracy or any other would go normally although slowly. Democracy needs a long time to reinforce. One mistake of the US was that it tried it first and left the rule of law to later stages of the era. The prevailing political culture then was that of one strong leader controls the country, which shifted suddenly in 2003 to democracy, sharing governance among various political factions and integration of ethnic minorities. Hence, the legislating of a new constitution for the country had to encompass all the ethnic diverse structure emerged after the regime collapse. This made the new constitution pluralist to integrate all the new-coming political factions and ethnic communities in Iraq. Iraq went through an alternative proposal, based on the rapid establishment of an interim Iraqi authority to which the U.S. would transfer power and with which it would jointly govern, has received more support, as necessary for domestic legitimacy. This interim authority would give way to a permanent Iraqi authority once political conditions (e.g., agreement on a constitution, national elections) permit. But this proposal, too, is flawed. The fundamental problem is that no pre-identifiable, optimal Iraqi candidates exist whom either the United States or the international community can handpick to run an interim authority. Socio-political dynamics in Iraq are complex and too little is known of the actual preferences or aspirations of those inside the country. A political regime used to rule with an iron grip on all the governmental institutions as well as social and other areas of life, and with the fall of this regime, the whole state fell with all its institutions as they were formed as one interwoven network. The statism of the ruling government forced the new-government to be borne as a nascent authority after 2003. With the interim authority of Iraqi government supervised and directed by the US authority gave it a vulnerable capacity. In addition, the serious falls in other institutions: economic, infrastructure, educational, social, cultural and health care gave the new political authority a responsibility of taking all the burdens of reviving and reconstructing all these institutions, so it appeared as the sole actor transnationally.
Moreover, this era introduced a very novel structure in the political culture and governance, which is the women’s participation in ruling and leading the country. Through the new established political system of Iraq, and its adaptation of democracy and human rights, women were forced as a power in governance by the internationally-led enforcement actor, USA. This was practiced through the applying “Quota” in the parliamentary system, and thus women won 25% of the seats of any political faction or party to be female share in the legislative authority in Iraq, i.e. Parliament. The challenge that this act emerged was that most women, whom most of the parties engaged in their political agenda and lists, were not capable enough for such positions and bold decisions and therefore we have not really seen an active role of women in the parliament or the ministerial positions. Women in Iraq still need so much capacity-building, training, political skills, and leadership initiatives to sincerely deserve such posts, not only by quota.
In addition, one of the factors that influenced this era and the successful (disabled) governance is the external actors. Those actors play a parallel role in the move to democratization in a post-2003 political environment. External actors are two: regional actors and international actors. In general, the regional actors hinder the move to democratization as seen in the roles of Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and sometimes Egypt, Morocco and Yemen. These countries were always charged with terrorism support in Iraq whether in sheltering ex-Baathists, terrorists’ infiltration cross the borders, or training cells for insurgents and financially aiding such cells. The international actors generally are regarded as very positive factors to the new move of democratization in the political environment of post-2003. They showed their good intention to help the process in Iraq since 2003 through the state-building mission. The efforts led by the US and UN were tremendously beneficial to Iraq although not sufficient to get the state out of the wholesale devastation. NGOs and donor countries also recorded a much acknowledged stand by offering programs in training, rehabilitation and funding.
Furthermore, the rule of law played a very outstanding role in the governance of the post-war Iraq. Rule of Law went through the same eras as the governance in Iraq: 1959-1968, Baath era and post-2003 era. In the 1958-1968 rule of law was represented in strong respective judges and very accountable judiciary system and well-known police and military forces. Opposite to that was the Baath era. During this era, especially when Saddam held the governing, judges were not really taking judiciary roles. The government judges were of two types at this era: one group were receiving the judiciary sentences from the Baath part and they just say these sentences, and another group were not practicing their job as they did not accept to be robot of Baath’s corruption and thus became inexperienced. The rule of law then conformed to what Baath legislated even though it means violation of international laws and human rights. For example, the resolution of the Revolution Leadership Council No. 641 in 31 March 1980 was an irrefutable proof of this regime authoritarianism and totalitarianism. This resolution sentenced all the Dawa party members to death and those who help them or affiliate to them with retrospective force. In the post-2003, the judiciary system was almost collapsed with the toppled apparatus of Saddam. The remaining judges were inexperienced and though needed a lot of training programs to update their skills in criminal areas as well as capacity-building programs implemented through international donation programs, international agencies and recently the Iraq-US Security Agreement. Moreover, the emergence of militias in some cities in time of incapability of the national security forces led the country to a civil war and confrontation with the Multi-National forces especially after the explosion of Samara Dom that pulled the country into a sectarian war and caused in displacement of thousands of Iraqis. The Law Enforcement Plan helped very much in stabilizing the country, discovering and cleansing the cities from the terrorists’ cells in Iraq, and returning people to their old neighborhood. The issue is that Rule of Law came in a later stage of the state-building process while it should have been adopted at the very beginning of the invasion and Saddam’s regime collapse. In other words, rule of law should have preceded the democracy-building in post-2003 Iraq. Also, rule-of-law development would facilitate economic transitions to the market model by helping achieve legal and institutional predictability and efficiency in a variety of areas. It would also help bolster fledgling democratic experiments by undergirding new constitutions, electoral systems, and political and civil rights. Moreover, progress on the rule of law would help alleviate two serious problems—corruption and ordinary crime—whose growing severity in many countries appeared to be the major negative side effects of the many attempted economic and political transitions.
Therefore, I would like to address here the sudden change of the political system in a country where unilateral political faction used to rule. The new change imposed a new era in the political history of the country which is based on sharing of the governance. This creates a serious problem in many ways: decision- making, rebuilding process, development, bureaucracy complications, and bloc-individuality interests. Pluralism and democracy constitutes the main challenges for the Iraqi political map as it means and makes eligible for the different parties, blocs and factions to share the governance and hence either push forward or be an obstacle in the reintegration process. Reintegration in one global interest and decision has become one of the distant ambitions. Therefore, the political concepts will be presented as new keys in Iraq’s political building, which are rule of law and pluralist democracy: shedding light on the social ethnic diversity and its confusion with the political reintegration and political culture with the values it encompasses.
In democratic politics, pluralism is a guiding principle which permits the peaceful coexistence of different interests, convictions and lifestyles. Unlike totalitarianism or particularism, pluralism acknowledges the diversity of interests and considers it legitimate for members of society to work for their realization, to represent them and to articulate them in a process of conflict and dialogue. In political philosophy, those who embrace pluralism are often described as liberals, while those who take up a more critical attitude towards the diversity of modern societies are often called communitarians.
The rationale of showing this area is for reason that Iraq has been experiencing a very novel system in politics that shaped its political map since 2003. This novel map caused all the events, situation, and problems that Iraq has been going through, i.e. security challenges, economic shortage, and lack of social services. Most important reason for selecting this area is because of a new different political faction coming to the rule in Iraq’s history; it is maverick, i.e. Shia rules Iraq as a majority faction. This new-comer maverick created a realization of the nation diversity in interests that are bound to sectarian and ethnic groups. Thus, the affiliation emerged to appear as sect control in politics and diverted the track of the governance into individual loyalties and sectarian interests. Quota promoted these concepts to be beliefs and acts of political groups and led to internal conflicts among the governing sects that stumbled the national project and interests of the nation. This is best reflected in the Parliament’s role as a legislative and overseeing power. Because of the parliament, the most critical laws, decisions, and authorities were hindered and some not ratified because simply they did not serve a particular sect’s interests or the intended ratification of a certain law would record a success for the majority sect, i.e. current government, holding control on the governance of the nation, which other political blocs would not prefer so.
We hope that we may provide the political leaders with insights, and policy solutions to effectively managing the multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural societies.