This article examines the corruption of political elites in Iraq in the wake of the 2003 American occupation – a phenomenon that has had disastrous consequences for the country as well as astronomical fiscal costs. The corruption that has now become endemic has served not only to undermine reform and reconstruction efforts – while simultaneously accomplishing the embezzlement of billions of dollars – but also has left the Iraqi people exposed to a wide array of harms from contaminated wheat imports to an infrastructure in complete disarray to foreign machinations, including those of international food conglomerates. Through the acquiescence of corrupt Iraqi elites, the country has been laid open to external interests and foreign initiatives as well as those of the World Trade Organization (WTO) through means such as the 100 ‘orders’ signed by US ‘Ambassador’ Paul Bremer III under the auspices of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Graft and kickback schemes of every stripe are rife throughout the country, and monies donated in the form of international assistances have served to line the pockets of the corrupt, never reaching the intended recipients among the average Iraqi population in many instances. The vicious cycle is further perpetuated also through a corrupt judiciary that militates against any sort of meaningful transparency or oversight. Corruption, and that of the powerful elites in particular, has not only squandered genuine development opportunities that might have benefited the country at large and done much good to facilitate reconstruction efforts, but also it has – for the foreseeable future – thrown the issues of Iraqi oil revenues and food security as well as that of national sovereignty into a peril of the first order.


The phenomenon of the corruption of political elites exists in all countries, including advanced ones, but to varying degrees, tending to be more diffuse in countries exposed to difficult conditions and crises. The corruption of politicians in most underdeveloped countries has hindered their efforts to cope with changing international circumstances and positively adapt to the related pressures. The failure of these elites to manage economic reform processes has led to structural and fundamental distortions that consequently prevent a given country from achieving sustainable growth. Thus, instead of administering a country’s wealth in a sound fashion in the service of its economy and development, revenues have been embezzled and stolen. As a result, developmental efforts have been forfeited and internal decision-making power confiscated by the mechanisms of the global economy and its major institutions.

Iraq is one of the countries that has been overtaken by corruption due to the changes that occurred during the unstable post-2003 transitional phase, together with the ineffectiveness of the rule of law and lack of oversight, transparency and accountability for those entrusted with its resources and wealth, i.e., the political classes. Thus, the following problematic can be posited. What are the repercussions of the corruption of power for development and the future economic independence in Iraq, and what are the determinants constraining corruption of its ruling elites?

In order to elucidate this problematic further, the following interrelated questions can be posed:

. What does corruption of the ruling authority imply?

. Where does the level of corruption rate on the scale of possibilities?

. What are the most prominent aspects and indicators of the corruption of Iraq’s political elites?

. Where does Iraq stand in relation to others on the spectrum of global corruption?

. What are the economic costs of the corruption of the government in Iraq?

. Can we constrain the phenomenon of the corruption of the ruling authority in Iraq?

With regard to these questions, I would advance two hypotheses: (1) that the unstable transitional phase in Iraq and attendant variables have fomented the spread of corruption among its political elites; and (2) the corruption of political elites and their deplorable conduct has led to the squandering of economic resources and the fettering of decision-making power in the administration of internal economic affairs.

Read full text here  The corruption of political elites in Iraq: an economic analysis


corrupt Iraqi political elites

corruption in Iraq



the Iraqi judiciary

graft and kickback schemes in Iraq

nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)

development opportunities

environmental corruption


foreign corporations

international economic institutions

Iraqi sovereignty


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