This introductory chapter sets out the book's purpose, which is to examine the political development of Iraq from the inception of the state in 1921 to the post-2003 years of political and societal turmoil. Its premise is that from the very beginning of the state the Iraqi project in fact devolved into three undertakings: the consolidation of the state and its governing institutions, the legitimization of the state through the framing of democratic structures, and the creation of an overarching, and thus unifying, national identity. The book is different from other studies of Iraq's political history, in that it traces the development of each of the three projects of governance, democracy, and national identity separately, while at the same time highlighting the way they impacted and shaped one another. The remainder of the chapter discusses the roots of the predicament of post-2003 Iraq.
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