Tribalism within Iraq
Four part series on "Iraq's tribal society: A state within a state" at the Healing Iraq blog. Part one, part two, part three, and part four.
Understanding the tribal aspect of Iraqi society is essential for any outsider seriously interested in Iraqi and ME affairs. Not much attention has been devoted to this subject in the Western media, and all the related articles published on the web are shallow and do not reflect the true picture nor the importance of the historical role of tribalism in Iraqi (and Arab in general) society.
First you have to take in consideration the unique geographic location of Iraq, in that it is surrounded and enclosed by mountains in the north and east, while from the west and south it lies on the northern edge of the largest source of Bedouinism, the Arabian Desert. The land that is today called Iraq has been exposed for millenia to waves of Bedouin migration from the south for purposes of either military conquest (such as the Arab Muslim invasion during the 7th century), searching for water and pasturage to graze their flocks, raiding and looting (such as the Wahhabi raids on Shi'ite holy cities during the 18th century), or settlement. Iraq was also known to be the cradle of civilisation, and the spread of tribal social values brought by the successive Bedouin waves contributed much to the decline and destruction of this civilisation at different times in history. Whenever the tribal influence diminishes over a few centuries and
civilisation slowly flourishes again, a new wave of fresh desert tribes moves to the area and disrupts the process all over again.