By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –Baghdad is under a state of emergency on Sunday a day after members of the Sadr Trend stormed the Green Zone and invaded the parliament building, briefly imprisoning parliamentarians in the chamber (and some in a basement) before letting them go. Some apparently were beaten as they left. Most of the protesters, though, were relatively peaceful and had been ordered to avoid violence by their leader, Muqtada al-Sadr. As at Tahrir Square in Cairo in 2011, of which the invasion of the Green Zone was a distant echo, they chanted “peacefully, peacefully” ( silmiyyah, silmiyyah).

The Bush administration in its years of military occupation of Iraq presided over the installation of an Iraqi spoils system more rowdy and rapacious than anything Andrew Jackson ever imagined. The Bushies and the UN put a parliamentary system in place, so that the parties that form the biggest coalition in the national legislature get to put forward a prime minister, who is appointed by the president. That prime minister then appoints a cabinet, with most cabinet ministers overseeing a ministry. The cabinet appointees came from the parties supporting the prime minister in parliament. Thus, the minister of housing might be from the Da`wa Islamic Party (the Islamic Call or Mission Party), a Shiite fundamentalist group drawn from what’s left of the Iraqi middle class and typically led by laymen rather than clergy. The Ministry of Labor would then be packed with members of the Da’wa Party.

Some of this spoils system is rooted in the Debaathification drive of Ahmad Chalabi, Nouri al-Maliki and other Shiite political entrepreneurs who wanted to fire Sunni Arabs from the Iraqi bureaucracy after the fall of Saddam Hussein. They tagged anyone who belonged to the Baath Party as unsuitable for government service, even down to school teachers. And, it wasn’t just members of the party but people who had relatives who were members of the party. Most Baath Party members committed no greater crime than conformism (or maybe they wanted to travel; you had to be a member to get a passport). So Chalabi et al. got rid of some 100,000 Sunnis from their government jobs at a time when the Bushies ran the Iraqi state factories and other state-owned companies into the ground because they didn’t believe in “socialism.” So the Sunnis were just made unemployed.

When Nouri al-Maliki reigned as Prime Minister 2006-2014, his spoils system became ever more corrupt and exclusive. The Sunni Arabs of Iraq were almost entirely excluded from spoils. Members of al-Maliki’s Da’wa Party got fabulously rich off the country’s oil income. The corruption of his officer corps led directly to the collapse of the Iraqi army at Mosul in 2014, allowing Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) to take over 40% of the country. The sense of deprivation of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs who cooperated with Daesh also drove these events. You couldn’t say he was a successful prime minister.

Iraq is what is called by political scientists a “rentier state.” That just means that the government gets an income (or “rent”) from external payments (in this case foreign purchases of its petroleum). Rentier states famously don’t really need their people so much. In ordinary states like the US, a lot of politics is about how much the government will tax the people, and who will get the benefit of government services. In a Rentier state, there are no taxes. Politics is about how much the state officers have to share their bonanza with the people. Wise rentier states share liberally. Iraq’s elite is not wise.

Al-Maliki’s successor, Haydar al-Abadi, was, like al-Maliki, a leader of the Da’wa Party and continued the spoils system. Other parties complained that Da’wa got the lion’s share of lucrative ministerial appointments (and therefore that the party’s members got the good government jobs).

Read the Rest of the Article by Juan Cole – Source: Informed Comment: The End of American Iraq: Poor Shiites invade Parliament over corrupt Spoils System | Informed Comment

NO COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY