State deconstruction-reconstruction 2.0

In 2003, Iraq was invaded with a project to completely deconstruct the country, and ensure it was beholden to US patronage. The US pursued state dismantlement, namely the disbanding of its security forces, intelligence and army.

Iraqis still live with those repercussions and hundreds of thousands were killed as a direct outcome of the US invasion in Iraq.

That project to deconstruct-reconstruct Iraq, albeit in ways beholden to the US, was upset by the levels of violence and resistance against the US occupation.

The rest is history, up to now.

We have entered another phase of that same war of 2003. A continuation.

Iraq is now bankrupt because of low oil-prices and has few choices to save itself from major catastrophe.

All politics in Iraq is a high-stakes game, perhaps something about an oil – economy and society makes it that way. Perhaps it’s the region that Iraq is in. Perhaps because it has been the target of US and European imperialism and colonialism for over 100 years.

Iraq is now cornered, desperate as it was in 2003.

17 years of destruction, a military occupation, al Qaeda/ISIS and severe poverty. Before that 13 years of international sanctions and the 1991 Gulf War and before that 8 years of war with Iran. Iraqis have not seen the light of day.

The Iraqi man/woman can only resist so much, born resilient in a situation of everyday loss.

Its that same sentiment I saw in 2003 – anyone except ‘them’ – whoever they are, for many, its ‘militias’ – ‘backed’ by Iran, that have destroyed Iraq.

Yes, Iraqis, after 17 years, are just as desperate as they were in 2003, then reeling from 13 years of brutal, medieval sanctions.

Desperation, the creation of it, through war, sanctions and instability is an ugly resource and one that induces the loss of morals and principles, and a clapping for whoever will ‘save us’.

So Iraqis want someone or something to ‘save them’ from the ugly living conditions in which they live.

No electricity, poor housing, schooling, insecurity and the absence of a functioning state pervade Iraqi  every day life.

Iraqis are desperately crying once again for help and many think the US can do that.

Come Mustafa al Kahdimi, a long-time friend of the US, and his Government, many of whom are expats from UK, US and Europe, have entered into a pact.

A ‘care-taker’ Prime Minister with a rare opportunity.

A pact, for now, while it lasts, to ‘save Iraq’.

Thirsty, enforced desperation, Iraqis are increasingly loving this al Kahdimi style, a man to shake asunder Iraq’s woeful state, to rescue the nation, so many think, from disaster.

And most, with that deep pain of desperation, believe him, or anyone else who claims to be on ‘their’ side.

al Kahdimi fancies himself as the new strongman in Iraq who preaches the ‘change’ everyone wants to see.

The new Government has few options and their hold – specifically the group allied to the US – on the state is weak. They need the US as much as the US needs them. Its a mutually beneficial arrangement.

There are two conditions the US has set for continued financial and political support (both go together given the precarious nature of the situation in Iraq):


  • Clamp down on armed organisations affiliated with Iran (that’s happening as we speak) – which plays into US anti-Iran policies and sanctions, etc.


  • Completely privatise the Iraqi economy (except oil) – well Minister of Finance of Iraq, Ali Allawi, just announced that. So thats happening too.


See his speech here:


and proposed plans for the complete ‘reform’ of Iraq’s sectors.



Enter, the Egypt model.

No two models are the same.

Similar, yes, but not identical.

Egypt is a military junta – comprador state, dominated by Gulf capital.

Its political elite serve not the ‘people’ but specific elites and parts of society.  That is why we had the ‘revolution’ in the first place because its sole purpose was to protect the interests of the ruling elite – it relies on the use of force to keep things in order. The revolution was an attempt to break that political order.

That is, in part, the model that is being imposed on Iraq, with a few tweaks of course.

The new ‘elite’ in Iraq will be one throwing itself to be beholden to US and Gulf interests. They too fashion themselves as facilitators of US/Gulf capital, and they have no qualms about that. They stand to profit from what is happening in Iraq. Iraq’s economy will be sold to them, in part of course – the lion’s share will go to others outside the country.

The construction of a new class – not new, but moulded anew, to protect US interests in Iraq, and enrich themselves. This is what is happening now and that is what the 2003 occupation attempted to do.

Ali Allawi, Minister of Finance, clearly stated that the poor, who make up 25% of Iraq’s population will not be protected by the state. It tells us a lot about what is happening. They will have to fend for themselves. They have ‘crafts’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ – which don’t actually exist in Iraq.

No welfare support is planned. And now everyone will have to rely on their own ‘creativity’ to survive. Iraq is entering a new phase of post-2003 neoliberalism.

If Iraq’s society wasn’t already in pieces, this new reality will shatter it completely. Dont forget, there are degrees of collapse.

Of course, under this current deal with the US, the poor don’t really matter – disposable, as they see them – fodder for these political elites, and as they have been.

Ali Allawi also visited Saudi Arabia recently to tie the deals regarding loans. Of course, the US sets the conditions in all of this.

See here:

In and of itself, improved Iraq – Saudi relations and economic ties is a good thing. Iraq and the Gulf need to do much more to build cultural, economic and social relationships. They are neighbours.

But this wasn’t the goal. The goal, under this new arrangement with the US, is for Iraq to access loans and to adhere to the conditions set by its patron.

The so called ‘spoilers’ – a really stupid term by the way – are actually competing vested interests in the Iraqi state who are opposing this, as their interests (and access) to the state is being threatened. Ultimately, it is a clash of interests, a clash of groups.

And, once again, Iraqis being short on memory but generously endowed with misery – forgetful as they are and, like the rest of history, repeating itself, as it does, the people that saved Iraq – the Hashd –  are demonised, their sacrifices and of the poor that lost life and limb, relegated to a comma stop.

The war against the Iraqi state (and its people) plays itself out once again, a continuation of that 2003 War to deconstruct Iraq and reconstruct it as a country beholden to US dictated politics.

What is at loss here is not just Iraq’s economy and state, but the right to determine its own future, free of US imperialism and its tanks of neoliberalism.

Like Lego, bits and bobs, one here, and another there, until it comes into place, our way, and through us only. The impossibility of development unless through the market.

There was never any room for Iraq in the Middle East’s US dominated politics anyway, a democratic Iraq was not in any of its neighbours interest.

Ensuring Iraq is weak, de-militarised, beholden to US interests, was always the goal of the US occupation and a continuing one. Not democracy, never, only a dream to sell and a country to control.

The playing out of that is becoming clearer by the day.

What could upset this whole thing again is the use of violence, as it did from 2003.

We will see what happens in the coming months.


About Mehiyar

Dr Mehiyar Kathem is a researcher at University College London (UCL). Mehiyar completed a PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) where he researched peacebuilding interventions and the formation of Iraq’s domestic NGO sector after the 2003 War. During this research, he looked at the gradual evolution of Iraq from totalitarian dictatorship through the country’s emerging domestic organisations. His research interests include statebuilding, civil society peacebuilding and the ways in which development, politics and money interact at a local level. In 2012 and 2013, Mehiyar conducted field research in Iraq for his PhD programme, spending a year meeting with and interviewing domestic NGO actors, political parties, government officials and international donors. Previously, Mehiyar worked on a number of grassroots programmes geared to build the capacity of civil society organisations and continues to advise international donors on the effective design and delivery of projects in Iraq. He tweets at @mehiyar

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