A US-led assault on Iraq will have unpredictable and possibly profound effects on Iraqi society. Moreover, those effects will vary with the objectives and strategy adopted by the US and its allies as well as by the pace and scope of the collapse of Iraqi resistance. Further, the reach of Washington's post-war objectives has not yet been settled. Given these multiple sources of uncertainty, understanding the relationship between Iraqi society and the Iraqi state after three decades of Ba'ath rule is all the more crucial to the success of post-war efforts to reconstruct the country and reconstitute its political system. Yet that relationship is poorly understood in the West. The Iraq of today cannot easily be mapped on to a neat diagramme of sect, tribe, or party. The rentier structure of the state economy, the regime's manipulation of group identity to control the population, the emergence of a shadow state that distributes public goods to advance regime interests, and pervasive violence have transformed Iraq's socio-political landscape into dangerous and unfamiliar ground for intervention.
These essays delineate the options now being debated in Washington and provide up-to-date assessments of how Iraqi state and society will respond to the impact of war and the removal of a deeply-rooted authoritarian regime.
Toby Dodge is at the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation at the University of Warwick. He is working on the transformation of the Middle East and wider developing world under globalisation. Steven Simon is Assistant Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Carol Deane Senior Fellow in American Security Studies. Before joining IISS in November 1999, he served on the National Security Council staff at the White House for five years, where he worked on Persian Gulf security strategy, peacekeeping operations, and counter-terrorism. Prior to his White House assignment, he held a succession of posts at the Department of State, including Director for Political-Military Plans and Policy, Co-director of the Desert Shield/Desert Storm Task Force and acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Regional Security Affairs.