Recent outbursts of sectarian and ethnic violence in Iraq have made many observers question the viability of the state itself. It is said that due to the artificiality of the state and a lack of deep-seated political institutions, Iraqi politics is doomed to endlessly revert back to primordialism. Political parties are mere facades for the real intention of pursuing ethno-sectarian interests, the argument goes. But the present situation has largely been caused by Saddam Hussein's infamous rule over the past three decades, combined with the plight of international sanctions. Before Saddam's ascent to power in the late 1970s, however, the Iraqi political spectrum was full of political parties operating from ideological platforms. The largest, and arguably most important of these groups, was the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP). The ICP stands out as the only true cross-sectarian party in Iraqi history, drawing support from all of Iraq's diverse communities. From its inception in 1934, it continuously fought the various regimes in power and endeavoured to spread communist ideology throughout Iraq. At times the party achieved considerable success in this regard, although ultimately never able to seize power. Red Star over Iraqanalyses the twists and turns of the ICP from its inception until its ultimate demise as a significant political force at the hands of Saddam in 1979.
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Reidar Visser is a Research Fellow specialising in Iraqi politics at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Oslo. He is the author of Basra, the Failed Gulf State: Separatism and Nationalism in Southern Iraq.
Gareth Stansfield is Reader in Middle Eastern Politics at the University of Exeter and author of several books including Iraq: People, History, Politics.
A very timely, well conceived, and expertly developed volume on a matter that, in the growing furor over the Bush administration's war in Iraq, has become an intense topic of debate.(Joost Hiltermann, member of the International Crisis Group on Iraq)
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