Iraq: From Rentier State to Failed State

Rolf Schwarz

in War and State Building in the Middle East

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780813037929
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813042138 | DOI:
Iraq: From Rentier State to Failed State

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This chapter looks at the history of the Iraqi state. Much of independent Iraq's history of state making (1958–80) followed the rentier-state paradigm until the onset of the Iran–Iraq War in 1980; this started a new era in the state's history that ultimately led to state failure and collapse: initial war making (the Iran–Iraq War) led to overstretching of state capacity; the ensuing fiscal crisis led to a further weakening of the state and pushed the regime into bellicosity (the annexation of oil-rich Kuwait in order to shore up Iraq's rentier resources). The concerted military action by the international community and the subsequent regime of United Nations sanctions left the Iraqi state crippled. The weakened Iraqi state—a fragile state par excellence—had to re-create new forms of legitimacy by resorting to Iraqi nationalism based on tribal affinities and the Islamic religion in order to counter the persistent surveillance by and encroachment of powerful external adversaries. The bellicose public discourse proved counter-productive, as Iraq's supposed military capacity was one of the reasons for the violent regime change in 2003 and the total collapse of the state in the aftermath of the invasion.

Keywords: war; militarization; state failure; sectarian violence; Saddam Hussein; intervention

Chapter.  9950 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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