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Politically sanctioned corruption and barriers to reform in Iraq

  • Renad Mansour

    Senior Research Fellow, Chatham House

    زميل أبحاث أول، تشاتام هاوس

  • Toby Dodge

    Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House

    زميل مشارك، برنامج الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا

This paper explores the pernicious effects of politically sanctioned corruption on governance in Iraq. This type of corruption is more consequential for the coherence of the state, and for its everyday functioning, than petty or personal corruption. It is the key barrier to reform.

The post-2003 ethno-sectarian power-sharing arrangement – designed to ensure communal stability – instead sustained an elite pact in which political parties captured and compromised formal institutions of state.

One key feature of this type of corruption has been the abuse of the ‘special grades’ scheme within the bureaucracy, with political parties competing to appoint officials to senior civil service positions to then divert state resources for their own purposes. Their links to party bosses make these civil servants the real decision-makers in ministries and agencies, and release them from any accountability.

Without a fundamental grasp of the dynamics of power across the whole Iraqi system and then a coherent effort to make the civil service more accountable, any local or national reform effort will not succeed.

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