The system we live in now is the sectarian Islamist political system. Everyone in Iraq knows that this system was put in place by the United States after the 2003 invasion. It is the bourgeois powers inside and outside of Iraq who support this system.
There are two aspects that are the most important to understand. One is the massive privatization campaign that started after 2003. The second is the enormous violence from 2006 on, especially the rule of militias that started and the war against ISIS.
Privatization had already started under the rule of Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath Party. It was a fascist regime based on state capitalism, dependent on the oil economy. After the US military invasion of 2003, the so-called free market was introduced in Iraq. It destroyed the fascist regime but also the Iraqi economy and society. As Iraq’s factories came to halt, industrial production and agriculture were almost destroyed. Part of the public sector was destroyed or sold off.
Under the previous prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, who is closely aligned with US interests in Iraq, we realized that we now had to pay for everything: electricity, water, medical care. Basically, everything became commercialized. At the same time, not a single good is produced in Iraq today. Everything is imported and paid for by oil money.
This privatization was also done through international institutions of the global market, like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which negotiated loans with the Iraqi government that pressed them into retreating from public services.
With the dissolution of the Iraqi state in 2003, the United States enforced its own sectarian image of Iraqi society as made up of three components: Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, and Kurds. A quota system was set up to balance power between these three groups, as if these are our only identities in this country. Also, jobs were given according to your loyalty to one sectarian group and its sectarian political parties.
Eventually, the groups had their own militias, which gained strength through the continued violence in Iraq. A sectarian war broke out, and sectarian cleansing took place. Later, during the war on ISIS, militias were crucial in the fight, but they also committed crimes against people. For instance, Shia militias fighting ISIS would also attack majority Sunni areas and loot their houses. For many, this was not liberation from ISIS but rather sectarian cleansing.
The sectarian militias also interfered in economic life. For example, you cannot open a market without establishing contacts with militias to protect you in exchange for a tax, khawa. They control political life within the state as well. They have killed Iraqi politicians in the past. Today and after the ISIS war, for instance, one of the big militias, the Hashd al-Sha’bi, has tried to become an official force within the Iraqi state. Many of the militias have a loyalty to the Iranian regime, ideologically and logistically. It is within this context that we have to understand people’s great rejection of Iranian influence in Iraq.
Because of this system, we have lots of corruption and unemployment. Today we have 13 million unemployed people, according to the official numbers. But I would say it is even more — half of the population, or about 19 million people.