Tribalism has been a fact of life since Iraq was
created by the colonial powers.
And the U.S. occupation has made this tribalism worse
by means of the political system originally intended to bring democracy.
TRIBAL IDENTIFICATION AMONG THE PEOPLES OF IRAQ.
THE ELECTION SYSTEM CREATED BY THE U.S. OCCUPIERS
MADE THE TRIBALISM WORSE.
IRAQI NAMES INDICATE TRIBAL IDENTITY.
SPECIFIC MINISTRIES ARE KNOWN TO BE CONTROLLED BY CERTAIN TRIBES.
COULD A NON-TRIBAL LEADER EMERGE IN IRAQ?
IRAQ MIGHT SUB-DIVIDE ITSELF AFTER OCCUPATION.
by James Leonard Park
AMONG THE PEOPLES OF IRAQ.
We need not go into great detail about the various
groups in Iraq,
since their names are becoming better known with each news report
of what is happening on the ground in the failing nation-state named
Suffice it to say that the various peoples living
within the borders of Iraq
do not have much loyalty to the country of Iraq
or to any particular central government that might be in power.
And this lack of commitment to the central government
is particularly true now because the current central government
was put in place by the military forces of the USA
while it continued to occupy Iraq.
Rather, the peoples of Iraq think first of themselves
as members of their families, clans, & tribes.
These ethnic groups are strongly identified by their brand of
The hereditary rulers of each clan have religions titles,
but their credentials are not really religious.
And their hereditary power arises from
being sons of fathers who ruled before them.
2. THE ELECTION
CREATED BY THE U.S. OCCUPIERS
MADE THE TRIBALISM WORSE.
Instead of the legislature being created to
represent geographical areas,
as happens in most places on the Earth,
each legislator is elected to serve the whole country.
And their names are not even on the ballot.
Rather the voters are asked to select parties rather than candidates.
Each party creates a ranked
list of possible members of the parliament.
And the voters mark their ballots with the party of their choice.
Thereafter the seats in the legislature are assigned
according to the percentage of the popular vote for each party.
If one party wins 20% of the vote,
that party gets 20% of the seats,
beginning with the candidates on their top of their list
and working down until the correct number of seats are filled.
This means that party-identification is the
the voters have in mind when they go to the polls.
And the parties of Iraq are mostly named and organized along tribal
Is there any reason to expect anything else?
Each tribe of Iraq has its own political party.
And the members of that tribe are expected to vote
for a party named for their tribe
and representing their tribal interests in the parliament.
The resulting political system then tends to be
top-down in organization.
The political leader of each tribe is the first on the list for that
And he gives orders to the others on his list who also have seats,
telling them how to vote on any issue that comes before the legislature.
Could a system have been invented to be more tribal?
And the results have been predictable.
When any issue comes before the parliament,
the votes appears in blocs,
according to the interests of each tribal
Legislators selected because of their tribal loyalty
should never be expected to vote for anything
perceived to favor another tribe
or even for any policy that would be good for all tribes.
If a member of parliament
he will be dropped far down
the party-list for the next election
and will probably lose his
The party-bosses thus control all members of that party.
3. IRAQI NAMES
Once again, we do not need to go into details
concerning how the citizens of Iraq name their children.
But we will merely note that most names also indicate
what religious-ethnic group the person belongs to.
This is one reason checking identity at road-blocks is so easy.
When private armies are guarding their own enclaves,
they can exclude (or kill) people from other groups
simply by looking at their names
on their identity papers.
Also the surnames themselves usually tell
the geographical area from which that family comes.
"Al" means "of" or "from" in Arabic.
And most geographical areas are identified with one tribal group or
KNOWN TO BE CONTROLLED BY CERTAIN TRIBES.
As odd as it seems to anyone in the USA,
each part of the administrative branch of the government of Iraq
is known to be controlled by one tribe or another.
The head of each department is one kind of Muslim or the other.
And he appoints people from
his own group
to carry out the government
functions of that agency.
So when the people of Iraq want something done,
they must try first to get results from those government agencies
that are controlled by their own group.
5. COULD A NON-TRIBAL
EMERGE IN IRAQ?
This does not seem very likely for the following
The prime minister must be elected from the
which is made up of tribal leaders elected to represent each tribe.
Some of the parties are not identified with specific tribes,
but these have only a few seats in the legislature.
Any person who might be considered for prime minister
must be supported by all of the major tribal groups.
But he got into the parliament himself
because he was high on the ranked list for his party,
which means that he was loyal to his group
in order to be named so high on the list.
In fact, all serious candidates for prime minister
will probably be at the top
of one of the party lists.
Thus the present electoral system selects
the most tribal
persons to be in the
And then the parliament votes along tribal lines
on all issues, including selecting the prime minister.
This system tends to put the most
tribal person into office
rather than the least tribal.
After the end of U.S. occupation,
it is likely that mutual genocide
And the new form of government will probably be created
by whichever tribe is able to gain the upper hand militarily.
The first leader after occupation is very likely to be a military
Whoever heads the largest private army after occupation
has a good chance of being the first post-occupation leader.
Just as Saddam Hussein was known to be a tribal
always favoring people from his own region and tribe,
so the new dictator will do the same.
He might be willing to put some people from other tribes into power,
but he will be sure that they are loyal to him first
and only secondarily loyal to their own tribes-of-origin.
6. IRAQ MIGHT
ITSELF AFTER OCCUPATION.
Another very likely outcome immediately after the
U.S. troops leave
is that Iraq will fall into factional fighting,
each tribe trying to kill off the leaders and armies of the other
As a practical matter, this will mean that some geographical areas
will be controlled by some private armies
and others private armies will by in charge of other areas.
There will be military actions to establish
exactly where the lines between different tribes will be drawn.
And such military lines will be especially difficult to maintain in
After fighting to establish their new sub-states,
they might do some negotiating,
such as giving up some parts of the land
(which might be too close to the enemy)
in exchange for other parts, which are easier to defend.
At first, these ethnic enclaves will have to create
their own governments
and all of the services provided by government
because they will not be able to cooperate with their enemies
concerning such things as electrical power and water.
This is already happening in the best-defined areas controlled by
Perhaps after the fighting dies down,
they will be able to re-establish pubic utilities across tribal lines.
And eventually there might even be a unified Iraq once again.
But it seems more likely that the sectarian lines
will become permanent
at least lasting for several decades.
The only likely alternative to tribal sub-division
would be a very strong central ruler,
who could unite all (or many) of the factions of Iraq.
Such a leader does not seem to be on the horizon.
But if one private army overwhelms all of the other sectarian armies,
then the people might allow the commander of that army
to become the new president of Iraq,
following the pattern of Saddam Hussein.
April 12, 2008; Revised 4-20-2008; 3-28-2009; 6-12-2009; 5-5-2011;
James Park is an independent existential philosopher,
living and writing in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Much more will be learned about him from his website:
SEE RELATED CYBER-SERMONS:
THE WORLD PEACE FORCE DO?
Separate the Warring Factions of Iraq
Mutual Genocide: Not a War on Terrorism, Not a Civil War.
Muslims & Violent Muslims.
Former Members of Al-Qaeda.
for Iraq: Arabic-Speaking Peace-Keepers.