The pre-revolutionary political system, with its parliament of
landlords and hand-picked government supporters, was increasingly
incompatible with the changing social reality marked by the quickening
pace of urban-based economic activity fueled by the oil revenues.
The faction of the elite investing in manufacturing, the petty
bourgeoisie, and the working classes pressured the state to represent
their interests. As the armed forces came to reflect this shifting
balance of social forces, a radical political change became inevitable.
The social origins and political inclinations of the Free Officers
(see Glossary) who carried out the 1958 overthrow of the monarchy
and the various ideological parties that supported and succeeded
them clearly reflect the middle-class character of the Iraqi Revolution.
Both the agrarian reform program and the protracted campaign against
the foreign oil monopoly were aimed at restructuring political
and eonomic power in favor of the urbanbased middle and lower
classes. The political struggle between the self-styled radicals
and moderates in the 1960s mainly concerned the role of the state
and the public sector in the economy: the radicals promoted a
larger role for the state, and the moderates wanted to restrict
it to the provision of basic services and physical infrastructure.
There was a shift in the distribution of income after 1958 at
the expense of the large landowners and businessmen and in favor
of the salaried middle class and, to a lesser degree, the wage
earners and small farmers. The Baath Party, in power since July
1968, represented the lower stratum of the middle class: sons
of small shopkeepers, petty officials, and graduates of training
schools, law schools, and military academies. In the 1980s, the
ruling class tended to be composed of high and middle echelon
bureaucrats who either had risen through the ranks of the party
or had been coopted into the party because of their technical
competence, i.e., technocrats. The elite also consisted of army
officers, whose wartime loyalty the government has striven to
retain by dispensing material rewards and gifts.
The government's practice of lavishing rewards on the military
has also affected the lower classes. Martyrs' benefits under the
Baath have been extremely generous. Thus, the families of youths
killed in battle could expect to receive at least an automobile
and more likely a generous pension for life.
- Mostly broad plains; reedy marshes along Iranian border in south with large
flooded areas; mountains along borders with Iran and Turkey
Climate- Mostly desert; mild to cool winters with dry, hot, cloudless summers; northern
mountainous regions along Iranian and Turkish borders experience cold winters
with occasionally heavy snows that melt in early spring, sometimes causing extensive
flooding in central and southern Iraq
- Strategic location on Shatt al Arab waterway and at the head of the Persian
- 1,015 km note: Shatt al Arab is usually navigable by maritime traffic
for about 130 km; channel has been dredged to 3 m and is in use; Tigris and Euphrates
Rivers have navigable sections for shallow-draft boats; Shatt al Basrah canal
was navigable by shallow-draft craft before closing in 1991 because of the Gulf
Courtesy: The Library of Congress - Country Studies
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