Toby Dodge delves into Iraq's precarious security situation, tangled political settlement and weak institutions to ask if this strategically important country can avoid sliding back to authoritarian rule or civil war.

Iraq recovered its full sovereignty at the end of 2011, with the departure of all US military forces. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was undertaken to dismantle a regime that had long threatened its own population and regional peace, as well as to establish a stable, democratic state in the heart of the Middle East. This Adelphi looks at the legacy of that intervention. It analyses the evolution of the insurgency, the descent into civil war and the ‘surge’ as a counter-insurgency strategy and examines US and Iraqi efforts to reconstruct the state’s military and civilian capacity. This book seeks to answer three questions that are central to the country’s future. Will it continue to suffer high levels of violence or even slide back into a vicious civil war? Will Iraq continue on a democratic path, as exemplified by the three competitive national elections held since 2005? And does the new Iraq pose a threat to its neighbours? 

'… clear, concise and unsparing about the country’s ongoing agony. For anyone who wants to know how Iraq arrived at its current state, and wonders what might happen next, this is an excellent place to begin.’
The Economist

'Toby Dodge is one of the smartest Iraq analysts around. Read this book.’
Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco: the American Military Adventure in Iraq and The Gamble: General Petraeus and the Untold Story of the American Surge in Iraq, 2006–2008

'Toby Dodge is among our very best analysts of contemporary Iraq. His canny insights are firmly grounded in history and on-the-ground field work. In a field where the starry-eyed and the conspiracy theorists have had a field day, Dodge is careful and conscientious about his evidence, and his conclusions both formidable and alarming.'
Juan Cole, Professor of History, University of Michigan, and author of the blog Informed Comment 

‘Dodge casts a clear and critical eye on the shaping of Iraqi politics since the US-led invasion of 2003. In this incisive study, he provides a sombre, but realistic analysis of the forces at work in the country, informed by a close and acute reading of events. Most usefully for anyone concerned about Iraq's future, he develops a highly plausible account of its trajectory under prime minister al-Maliki and the new political elites.'
Charles Tripp, Professor of Politics, School of Oriental and African Studies and author of A History of Iraq

'A searching analysis of Iraq’s tortured history since the 2003 US/UK invasion. Toby Dodge’s study is a searing dissection of modern Iraqi politics which consolidates his reputation as a leading scholar on the country and the region.’
Lord Michael Williams, PhD, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, 2006–07, and UN Under Secretary-General, Middle East, 2007–11

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  • Introduction: Assessing the future of Iraq

    On 15 December 2011, in a fortified compound at Baghdad International Airport, United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta oversaw the formal end of the American military presence in Iraq. The event marked the final departure of US troops, eight years and nine months after the invasion. Panetta’s farewell speech was sober and downbeat. He placed emphasis on the joint sacrifices that Iraqis and Americans had made during the years...
  • Chapter One: Understanding the drivers of violence in Iraq

    In order to assess what Iraq’s future will be, the causes of the violent instability that plagued the country from 2003 onwards need to be analysed. Firstly, what were the factors that drove Iraq into civil war, and have events since 2007 reduced or removed them from the political arena? A close examination of civil wars across the world from 1945 onwards reveals three different but interlinked drivers of violent...
  • Chapter Two: From insurgency to civil war: the purveyors of violence in Iraq

    The violent struggle that began in 2003 with a rising insurgency against the US occupation can be understood as a conflict between two very different visions of what Iraq’s future should be and who was going to rule the country. In effect, the civil war was an attempt by those empowered by regime change to impose a political settlement on the country that guaranteed their own dominance of the state...
  • Chapter Three: Iraq, US policy and the rebirth of counter-insurgency doctrine

    On 10 January 2007, George W. Bush addressed the United States in a nationwide television broadcast. Faced with spiralling communal violence across south and central Iraq, the US administration had come to the realisation that a dramatic change in policy was necessary to avoid a major strategic defeat. At the centre of the speech was the president’s announcement of the ‘surge’, a temporary increase in US troops posted to Iraq...
  • Chapter Four: Rebuilding the civil and military capacity of the Iraqi state

    Among the three drivers of conflict and civil war, the major factor was the collapse of state capacity, both civilian and military, after the invasion of 2003. The counter-insurgency doctrine applied to Iraq by the US military after 2007 stressed that the state’s ‘ability to provide security for the populace’ was one of the six key tests of its legitimacy and future stability. Under this rubric, weak or illegitimate government...
  • Chapter Five: The politics of Iraq: the exclusive elite bargain and the rise of a new authoritarianism

    The final cause of the civil war was political: the elite bargain and exclusive pact that was placed at the core of the new governing system in 2005. The elite bargain was struck between the political parties that had gained dominance in exile by aligning themselves with the United States in the run-up to the invasion. Sovereignty was transferred back to their key representatives in 2004. A ‘leadership council’, consisting...
  • Chapter Six: From bully to target: Iraq’s changing role in the Middle East

    The invasion and regime change in 2003 was motivated by a desire in Washington to eradicate the Ba’athist regime, and to curtail the autonomy that Iraq had accumulated since 1968. The Iraqi regime’s ability to defy the international community from 1990 until 2003 was rooted in the political and economic autonomy it had developed both domestically and internationally. Politically, the state controlled by Saddam Hussein had brutally broken the majority...
  • Conclusion

    Iraq’s post-invasion history has been tumultuous. The ambitious optimism that shaped the US-led invasion and plans for the country’s transformation were swept away by a tide of politically motivated violence. What began as a fractured and highly localised revolt against a foreign invasion was soon transformed into a sustained insurgency that operated across the whole of south and central Iraq. By the time of Iraq’s first democratic elections in 2005...

Toby Dodge is Consulting Senior Fellow for the Middle East, IISS, and a Reader in International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the author of Inventing Iraq: The Failure of Nation Building and a History Denied (Columbia University Press) and Iraq's Future: The Aftermath of Regime Change (IISS).

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Iraq: From War to a New Authoritarianism

A press release for this Adelphi book by Toby Dodge is available here.