David Patel

David Siddhartha Patel

Research Fellow at the Crown Center


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How Oil and Demography Shape Post-Saddam Iraq


David Siddhartha Patel
Middle East Brief 122, September 2018


Four months after Iraq held parliamentary elections in May 2018 and two months since protests against inadequate public services, high unemployment, and corruption erupted in Basra and spread to other locales, Iraqi political factions continue to negotiate power-sharing and the formation of a new government. In this Brief, David Siddhartha Patel explores structural factors shaping the message of the elections and protests. He argues that both Iraq’s post-Ba‘th political system and a majority of its people came of age during a decade of extraordinarily high oil prices, from 2005 to 2014, and this period of plenty left a legacy that shapes attitudes as well as possibilities for reform. This period was critical with respect to the nature of patronage networks as well as in shaping the expectations of the country’s burgeoning youth population, 39% of whom were born after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. A majority of Iraq’s population do not remember life under Saddam Hussein—only the period under elected Iraqi governments flush with oil wealth. These factors likely will hinder the next Iraqi government’s efforts to implement financial and administrative reforms.

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