State Incubation of Iraqi Capitalism

by Isam al-Khafaji
published in MER142

The scene was the presidential palace in Baghdad, July 7, 1983. A campaign to solicit gold and money donations from ordinary citizens to support the Iraqi war effort had just begun. A furious Saddam Hussein was receiving a group of Iraqi contractors to convince them to increase their donations. He scolded them relentlessly, telling them the story of the literally barefoot man who had become a millionaire under “the revolution.” The 1968 Baath coup, it seems, had turned the man into a big contractor. Said Saddam:

A Split in the Iraqi Communist Party?

by Isam al-Khafaji
published in MER151

In the aftermath of the party’s fourth congress in October 1985, a group of 11 members led by an ex-alternate member of the central command of the party were expelled from the party. They had violated the party’s constitution by publicly circulating a memorandum attacking the new policy adopted by the party after its turn against the Baath rule in 1979, a document ratified by the 1985 congress. The document criticized the past experience of alliance with the Baath party on the grounds that the CP had accepted the possibility of the Baath leading Iraq’s transition to socialism. Consequently, according to the document, the CP had abandoned its political, ideological and organizational independence vis-à-vis the ruling party.

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Iraq's Seventh Year

Saddam's Quart d'Heure?

by Isam al-Khafaji
published in MER151

According to the Iranian media, the seventh year of the war was again to be the “decisive year.” For Iraq it was a year of more “achievements and victories” under the leadership of the “militant leader.” On March 21,1987, the Persian New Year, Saddam Hussein brought thousands of demonstrators to the streets of Baghdad to celebrate the end of the “decisive year” without an Iraqi defeat. Perhaps he was not aware that in Tehran they date the war years from September to September. Then again, to celebrate not being defeated yet as a victory is typical of the demagogy in which the Iraqi leadership indulges.

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Sassoon, Saddam Hussein's Ba'th Party

by Roger Owen
published in MER266

Joseph Sassoon, Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Since the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the difficulties of writing about the exercise of power inside authoritarian Arab regimes have been well known. The regimes’ inner workings existed, and to some extent continue to exist, in a black box, with few clues as to what records they kept, if indeed they kept very many at all. Hence we are doubly fortunate in Joseph Sassoon’s new volume -- first, in the treasure trove of Baath Party documents “liberated” from Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein and second, in Sassoon’s careful and judicious review.

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Soviet Perceptions of Iraq

by Roderic Pitty
published in MER151

From the Soviet point of view, Iraq under the Baath Party has been a troubling enigma, in terms of its place in the Third World generally and its political position in Middle East diplomacy. In the first respect, Iraq during the 1970s did not manage to consolidate itself as one of the USSR’s dependable allies, which official Soviet parlance refers to as “states of socialist orientation.” Most Soviet scholars sooner or later reached the conclusion that Iraq has really been on the capitalist path of development, although neither Moscow nor Baghdad could state this openly.

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The Challenges for Women Working at Iraqi Universities

by Nadje Al-Ali
published in MER266

Ten years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, Iraqi women suffer from pervasive hardships -- the overall lack of security, gender-based violence, the feminization of poverty and poor access to basic services. Women working at universities face all these challenges, as well as others particular to higher education.

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A Makeover

Baghdad, the 2013 Arab Capital of Culture

by Nada Shabout
published in MER266

Two clouds kissed silently in the Baghdad sky. I watched them flee westward, perhaps out of shyness, leaving me alone on the bench beneath the French palm tree (so called because it stood in the courtyard in front of the French department) to wait for Areej. I looked for something worth reading in that morning’s al-Jumhuriyya, and found a good translation of a Neruda poem in the culture section, besieged on all sides by doggerel barking praises of the Party and the Revolution. The breeze nudged the palm fronds above my head to applaud. It was April, “the month of fecundity, the birth of the Baath and the Leader,” as one of the posters on the college walls announced.

Permanent Transients

Iraqi Women Refugees in Jordan

by Isis Nusair
published in MER266

“We do not know our destiny. The Jordanian government might ask us to leave at any moment,” said Hana, a widow in her fifties. “There is no rest for a guest.”

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Rewiring a State

The Techno-Politics of Electricity in the CPA's Iraq

by Nida Alahmad
published in MER266

The Coalition Provisional Authority, the US-British body that briefly ruled in Baghdad from May 2003 to June 2004, had grand ambitions for Iraq. The idea was to transform the country completely from what was basically a command economy (notwithstanding liberalization measures in the 1990s) into an open market and from a dictatorship into a liberal democracy. The radical nature of these plans and orders, coupled with the CPA’s swift dissolution, has led many to dismiss the body as a hasty and ill-conceived imperial experiment. Indeed it was -- and a destructive one as well. But the CPA period still deserves serious examination. It was the only time when the US, in its capacity as occupier, was in charge of Iraq administratively and legally.

Aspiration and Reality in Iraq's Post-Sanctions Economy

by Bassam Yousif
published in MER266

From 1990 to 2003, Iraq languished under comprehensive UN sanctions that prohibited foreign trade. When sanctions were finally lifted, many economists and pundits, as well as Iraqis themselves, hoped for a rapidly expanding economy, brisk reconstruction and a return to prosperity. They have been sorely disappointed.

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