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REVIEW: Review by Andrew Arato of The Struggle for Iraq’s Future

By Andrew Arato,  November 21, 2014

Haider Ala Hamoudi. Negotiating in Civil Conflict. Constitutional Construction and Imperfect Bargaining in Iraq. University of Chicago Press, 2013. Pp. 382. $35. ISBN: 9780226068824.

Zaid Al-Ali. The Struggle for Iraq’s Future. How Corruption, Incompetence and Sectarianism Have Undermined Democracy. Yale University Press, 2014. Pp. 304. $35. ISBN: 9780300187267.

Within the same year we have been treated to two terrific volumes on the political development of Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, written by two Iraqis who, as legal advisors, have participated at different levels. Both works are exciting, well written and argued, and full of new information. They are especially valuable to me for their long views on this development, coming nearly a decade after I concluded my own study on Iraq more or less after the ratification of the Constitution in 2005.[1] What is, however, astonishing is that the two books seem to depict two alternative universes.

Zaid Al-Ali tells a story of almost continuous political crisis, caused not only by “corruption, incompetence and sectarianism” but also by the failure of the constitution making effort and the resulting constitution.  For Al-Ali, the American war and occupation, and especially the disastrous conduct of the latter, are at the root of a political and constitutional failure that the externally imposed Iraqi elites in charge did very little to rectify. In his presentation, the ethnic and sectarian divisions of Iraq were at best intermediary causes, not historically deep-seated, and they were greatly exacerbated by the occupation’s policies. Al-Ali’s narrative is well documented, paying equal attention to constitutional process, administrative decisions, party politics, economic policy, and local struggles, both during and after the formal American occupation.

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