People and Society, Social Structure
Iran-Iraq War, Persian Gulf War, richest countries, Iraqis, economic sanctions
Iraq’s enormous petroleum resources make it potentially one of the richest countries in the world. Before Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, no less than 95 percent of the value of its exports came from sales of petroleum. The Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 to 1988, seriously reduced Iraq’s production and sales of petroleum and harmed the economy as a whole. The Persian Gulf War (1991), which resulted from Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, further devastated the economy. An international oil embargo and other economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations (UN) in response to the invasion of Kuwait caused much hardship to Iraq and its citizens. At the start of the 21st century Iraq was still under the most extensive regime of sanctions in the UN’s history.
Iraq’s repressive dictatorship, led by Hussein, has also had a stifling influence. Iraqis are relatively well educated and considered industrious. However, the nation has been unable to realize its huge potential under Hussein’s leadership.
Most of the ruling elite hails from the Sunni Arab population. Few Shia Arabs are found in the middle and upper ranks of society. Poverty is particularly widespread among the Shia Arabs, even those who live in Baghdad. The Kurds, for their part, do not enjoy even the limited representation that the Shia Arabs have in Baghdad’s corridors of power. Since 1961 the Kurdish north has been off-and-on in a state of revolt.
Another cleavage in Iraqi society is that between the urban population and the rural population. Despite a rapid pace of urbanization, many Iraqis, particularly those in rural areas, still retain their extended family and tribal connections. Recent economic hardships, as well as government encouragement of tribal organization and values, have made extended kin ties even more prominent than in the past.
Article key phrases: