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Iraqi transitions: from regime change to state collapse

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This paper focuses on the US occupation of Iraq from the seizing of Baghdad in April 2003 until the official hand-over of sovereignty to the Iraqi government in June 2004. It seeks to explain the reasons for the failure of US forces to impose order on and then stabilise the country by examining the political and sociological legacy of Saddam Hussein, US planning before and after the war and how the occupation set about trying to build political structures in post-Saddam Iraq. Ultimately it argues that the most important reasons for the failure of the occupation have been ideological. US administrators charged with planning for and then occupying the country fundamentally misunderstood the size and nature of the task they were about to undertake. They set out to apply neoliberal measures of state reform only to find that the state had collapsed and they were now involved in a prolonged exercise of state construction. They then applied a primordial understanding of Iraqi society, exacerbating a divisive and potentially violent sectarianism into Iraqi politics.

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