From 2003 to 2011, the US-based non-profit contractor, Research Triangle Institute, was awarded $500 million to establish local government institutions. The effort to construct 1,000 councils was one of the largest funded projects in USAID history. In this paper, I show that contrary to the official statements made by USAID and occupation authorities, the Local Governance Project, a conventional international peacebuilding project, was integral to the security priorities of the occupation. I argue that these dynamics cannot be analysed in isolation of US imperial interests to create a client state in Iraq. Controlling the means of violence, particularly forms of power as manifested in local structures, was a central component of the US occupation to shape Iraq’s political trajectory. This paper explores the workings of imperial power by analysing the establishment of the District Advisory Council in Sadr City – a district containing over half of Baghdad’s population.
Academic article published in ‘Peacebuilding’, June 2019.