Senate Foreign Relations Committee
January 10, 2007
Where is Iraq headed?
I will be focusing almost entirely on Iraq‘s domestic politics, my area of expertise, and
hopefully bringing a little historical perspective to bear, since I have been working on
Iraq for some 50 years now.
I would like to address three questions today.
is Iraq today?
What are the chief political and social characteristics we face?
how can we account for this situation?
And lastly, is the current situation likely to be
Or is it transient?
Is it remediable?
First, what can be said about the situation in Iraq today?
Iraq since 2003 has
undergone not one but several
revolutionary changes, of a proportion not seen since the
collapse of Ottoman Empire and the formation of the new Iraqi state in the 1920s.
first has been a revolutionary change in leadership.
It is not simply that a regime and its
dictatorial head have been—not only figuratively but now literally—decapitated, but an
entirely new leadership group has come to power.
This leadership, brought to power
essentially by elections in 2005, has now entirely reversed several of the characteristics of
the old Ba’th regime, and even the transitional regimes that replaced it in 2003 and 2004.
It has changed the ethnic and sectarian composition of the leadership.
(It is now
dominated by Shi’ah and Kurds rather than Arab Sunnis).
It has changed the ideological
orientation from one which was secular and nationalist, devoted to a unitary Iraqi state, to
one with different visions but far more dominated by religion.
At the same time, it has
brought more women into power and in general is better educated.
The new leaders
come, more often, from urban origin, whereas Saddam’s clique were more rural and
small town born.
But the change has also now brought new men and women into power.
They have three distinct characteristics worth noting.
First is their inexperience and the discontinuity in their leadership.
percent in this cabinet and presidency hold such jobs for the first time.
This has meant a
lack of experience, a steep learning curve, and an inability to establish links with one
another and with constituencies.
Most have had little chance to gain experience because
of the continual change of cabinets.
Second, the change has also brought a divide between a group of leaders with
roots in exile who have lived outside of Iraq and Kurds who have been living in the north
separate from the rest of Iraq on the one hand, and those who remained inside living
under Saddam on the other.
The latter include key elements now in opposition, such as
the Ba’th, as well as the younger generation and the dispossessed who follow Muqtada
Some 28% are outsiders, now mainly from Middle Eastern rather than Western
countries; some 15% are Kurds; only 26% are insiders.
Third, and most important, is the fact that the key leaders in power today have all