Paper launch: Politically sanctioned corruption and barriers to reform in Iraq

Analysing new research which puts the dynamics of corrupt political power-sharing practices in Iraq under the microscope.

Research event, Panel
17 June 2021 — 2:00PM TO 3:30PM

Mass protests that dominated Baghdad and southern Iraq from October 2019 did not focus their attention on one specific political party or leader, but instead called for an end to the entire corrupt, post-2003 political system.

Over the past year, Iraq prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has attempted incremental reforms to tackle individual illicit wealth accumulation and other forms of petty corruption. This is consistent with other recent efforts by Iraqi leaders and international policymakers to reduce corruption, viewing it as a crime motivated by personal greed and a propensity to break the law for self-enrichment.

A new Chatham House research paper Politically Sanctioned Corruption and Barriers to Reform in Iraq puts the dynamics of corrupt political power-sharing practices under the microscope, and argues it is the politically-sanctioned corruption at the heart of the post-2003 state system which is critical to the coherence of the state and its everyday functioning.

In particular, the paper explores the opaque and complex scheme of ‘special grades’ that allows senior civil servants, parachuted into positions of influence by powerful political parties, to generate revenue for those parties from state coffers.

This webinar, part of Chatham House’s Iraq Initiative, launches this research with a discussion from the authors, policymakers and other experts on the nature of Iraq’s politically sanctioned corruption, the role of the special grades, and what international policymakers can do to navigate the nature of power and corruption within the Iraqi state and, in so doing, support meaningful reform.

The event is on the record, with simultaneous translation into Arabic, and livestreamed on the MENA Programme Facebook page.


Mohammad al-Hakim, Senior Advisor to Iraq’s Prime Minister on Economic Reform

Toby Dodge, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science; Iraq Research Director, Conflict Research Programme; Associate Fellow, Chatham House

Maya Gebeily, Middle East Correspondent, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Contributing chair: Renad Mansour, Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme; Director, Iraq Initiative, Chatham House

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