The Struggle for Iraq's Future


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How Corruption, Incompetence and Sectarianism Have Undermined Democracy

Zaid Al-Ali

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An unbarred account of life in post-occupation Iraq and an assessment of the nation’s prospects for the future

Many Westerners have offered interpretations of Iraq’s nation-building progress in the wake of the 2003 war and the eventual withdrawal of American troops from the country, but little has been written by Iraqis themselves. This forthright book fills in the gap. Zaid Al-Ali, an Iraqi lawyer with direct ties to the people of his homeland, to government circles, and to the international community, provides a uniquely insightful and up-to-date view of Iraq’s people, their government, and the extent of their nation’s worsening problems.
The true picture is discouraging: murderous bombings, ever-increasing sectarianism, and pervasive government corruption have combined to prevent progress on such crucial issues as security, healthcare, and power availability. Al-Ali contends that the ill-planned U.S. intervention destroyed the Iraqi state, creating a black hole which corrupt and incompetent members of the elite have made their own. And yet, despite all efforts to divide them, Iraqis retain a strong sense of national identity, Al-Ali maintains. He reevaluates Iraq’s relationship with itself, discusses the inspiration provided by the events of the Arab Spring, and redefines Iraq’s most important struggle to regain its viability as a nation.
Zaid Al-Ali is a lawyer specializing in comparative constitutional law and international commercial arbitration.  He was a legal adviser to the United Nations in Iraq from 2005 to 2010. He often serves as a commentator on Iraqi and Arab issues for BBC, Al-Jazeera, Channel 4, and the New York Times among others. He lives in Cairo, Egypt.
“Zaid Al-Ali [is] the author of this brave, disturbing and excoriating survey of Iraq’s political cesspit... Al-Ali’s detailed and thorough critique of the Iraqi constitution and the highly flawed process that engendered it, is principled and compelling” —Justin Marozzi, The National

‘Al-Ali provides a detailed account of the downward progression of the state of affairs in Iraq, offering readers illuminating explanations of the political, economic and social context of the increasing sectarian rift that has led to today’s turmoil.’—Dr Zeynep Kaya, LSE Review of Books

"In this devastating book on Iraq and, by implication, much of the Arab world, Zaid Al-Ali brings together the best practices of a lawyer, constitutional practitioner and independent analyst. He identifies the terrible combination of problems in recent Arab state-building due to both indigenous miscreants and foreign arrogance and militarism. The book is painful reading sometimes, but is absolutely essential reading for a clear understanding of why the Arab world is in the throes of so many citizen revolts against domestic and foreign tyranny."—Rami G. Khouri, Director, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, American University of Beirut

"In this fascinating story of Iraq’s first decade following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Zaid al-Ali merges a technocrat’s expert knowledge with a patriot’s zeal to expose the corruption, incompetence and malfeasance that have brought reconstruction to a virtual standstill and governance to the breaking point. He infuses his distressing analysis with insightful anecdotes based on his own experience as part of the rebuilding effort, in which he played a somewhat invisible yet important part, and contends that when the foundations – notably the 2005 constitution – are flawed, the structure erected on top of them is no less so, to deleterious effect. The way forward, he suggests, is to pursue a reset – a fundamental overhaul that Iraq’s current rulers are certain to reject and resist, and to therefore ground this effort in the stratum of mid- to senior-level state officials who are highly skilled, tireless, and imbued with a strong sense of duty to their country, and who have kept things going, incredibly, as the politicians have made an utter mess of things. This book is one of the very few in-depth studies to emerge from inside Iraq’s system so far this past decade, and hands-down the best".—Joost Hiltermann, Chief Operating Officer at the International Crisis Group, and author of A Poisonous Affair: America, Iraq, and the Gassing of Halabja

"A well-researched study of how Iraq has gotten into its current, worsening, and possibly terminal mess . . . Ali's analytical clarity and his inside knowledge fill the gap in understanding Iraq that, for non-Iraqis at least, has widened markedly since America pulled out of its misadventure."—Max Rodenbeck, New York Review of Books

"A devastating picture of the structural political flaws that have brought the country to the point of breakup."—Choice
ISBN: 9780300187267
Publication Date: February 18, 2014
304 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4