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Iraq’s Descent into Civil War: A Constitutional Explanation


In the summer of 2014, the Iraqi government lost control of much of the country. Insurgents — including the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), former Ba‘thists, and an array of Sunni tribes — captured Mosul, and then much of western Iraq. Although complex factors lay behind these developments, this article focuses on one theme of central importance: attempts to consolidate power in Baghdad and the concomitant evisceration of Iraq’s constitution. When key provisions of a very decentralizing federal constitution were ignored or violated, the blowback from disenfranchised groups in Iraq brought the country to the brink of collapse.