The Occupation of Iraq

Winning the War, Losing the Peace

Ali A. Allawi

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A comprehensive account of the occupation of Iraq and the crises that have followed in its wake, told for the first time by an Iraqi insider

Involved for over thirty years in the politics of Iraq, Ali A. Allawi was a long-time opposition leader against the Baathist regime. In the post-Saddam years he has held important government positions and participated in crucial national decisions and events. In this book, the former Minister of Defense and Finance draws on his unique personal experience, extensive relationships with members of the main political groups and parties in Iraq, and deep understanding of the history and society of his country to answer the baffling questions that persist about its current crises. What really led the United States to invade Iraq, and why have events failed to unfold as planned? The Occupation of Iraq examines what the United States did and didn’t know at the time of the invasion, the reasons for the confused and contradictory policies that were enacted, and the emergence of the Iraqi political class during the difficult transition process. The book tracks the growth of the insurgency and illuminates the complex relationships among Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds. Bringing the discussion forward to the reconfiguration of political forces in 2006, Allawi provides in these pages the clearest view to date of the modern history of Iraq and the invasion that changed its course in unpredicted ways.

Since the Coalition’s invasion of Iraq, Ali A. Allawi has served as his country’s first postwar civilian Minister of Defense, was elected to the Transitional National Assembly as a member of the United Iraqi Alliance, and was appointed Minister of Finance under Dr. Ibrahim al-Jaffari. He divides his time between London and Baghdad.

Listen to Allawi's first public radio interview on The Diane Rehm Show on WAMU 88.5 FM, American University Radio.

Visit the authors' website.

Click here for an extended question & answer discussion with the author.

"Ali Allawi's magnificent book arrives not a moment too soon. Here, finally, is a man of Iraq who knows its history and its wounds. He can write with deep understanding about its poets, its intellectuals, its clerics. He thoroughly grasps its peculiar place in its neighborhood, caught as it has been for several centuries between an Arab sense of belonging and currents from the Persian state to its east. . . . A new history is offering itself to the Iraqis, and in the tale of disappointment that Allawi brilliantly narrates there is still the furtive shadow of hope, an echo of deliverance, and undisguised sense of fulfillment at the spectacle of men and women released from a terrible captivity."—Fouad Ajami, New Republic

"Allawi's book . . . is a thorough account of the effort to govern and reconstruct Iraq as told by an Iraqi who was deeply involved in the process. . . . The Occupation of Iraq is packed with fascinating details for those who have closely followed America's misadventure in Iraq, and it's a valuable primer for those who haven't. His insider account of the past four years—and his views of what the United States should have done differently—adds a valuable new voice to the ongoing debate about Iraq."—Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post Book World

"Poignant. . . . Others have chronicled what went wrong [with the invasion of Iraq]. Few have witnessed events so close up, and with so intimate a knowledge of the gap between (Iraq) reality and (American) expectation. . . . What sets [this book] apart is Mr. Allawi's angle of vision, as a thoughtful Shia Muslim intellectual, loyal to his community but determined to be fair-minded. . . . Mr. Allawi is a moderate but . . . he is no secularist. A devout man, he is sympathetic to Shia Islamism, though by no means blind to its excesses. He acknowledges that Iran is stirring the Iraqi pot but has no time for the shriller forms of Iran-bashing. One can dissent from one or other of these positions. But the thing about Mr. Allawi is that reasonableness keeps breaking through."—Daniel Pudles, The Economist

"Allawi, until recently a senior minister in the Iraqi government, provides an insider's account of the nascent Iraqi government following the American invasion. [This] immensely readable exposition of Iraqi society and politics will likely become the standard reference on post-9/11 Iraq. It convincingly blasts the Coalition Provisional Authority for failing to understand the simmering sectarian animosity and conflicting loyalties that led Iraq into chaos."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Ali Allawi, is one of the smartest officials to serve in the Iraqi government since Saddam fell. . . . Allawi says Americans 'should not withdraw your troops' before settling the broader issues. He says the United States should use its troops as leverage 'to push for some kind of new regional framework. We need a diplomatic solution.' . . . Americans and Iraqis . . . still face the mess produced by the White House's strategic blinders. If President Bush won't take the advice of men like . . . Allawi, that mess will undermine the entire Middle East."—Trudy Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Thoughtful and well documented, Allawi's interpretations markedly differ from public statements made by the American leadership. . . . The book is recommended for thoughtful followers of the news."—Library Journal

"Comprehensive, factually robust, and likely to provoke public discussion, this book surpasses almost all other recent works on Iraq."—Booklist

“The war in Iraq has been endlessly analysed, but until now, an authoritative Iraqi perspective on the war has been missing. . . . This is, without doubt, a valuable and unusual book giving a totally new perspective on events in Iraq. Highly recommended.”—Military Illustrated

"Allawi, . . . the U.S.-and British-educated engineer and financier, is the first senior Iraqi official to look back at book length on his country's four-year ordeal. It's an unsparing look at failures both American and Iraq, an account in which the word 'ignorance' crops up repeatedly. . . . His well-researched book betrays little partisanship."—Charles J. Hanley, Yahoo News

“...the strength of Allawi's book is his detailed insight into the dynamics of Iraqi politics at the highest level . . . [it] should be essential reading for any world leaders thinking of effecting casual regime change in 'rogue' states.”—Adrian Weale, Literary Review

"This is a looming, looking-glass of a book. . . . Allawi's critique of the first reconstruction period is outstanding in its derision. But he is a shrewd analyst and a fluid writer, a returned exile whose brief turn as cabinet minister gave him cause for the reflection that anchors this book. In his hands, the plights of Iraq and its citizens, visiting insurgents and hapless warriors fighting on behalf of the American-led coalition all take on nuance that is missing from daily headlines. Allawi's treatment of sectarianism and insurgency, and of reconstruction and national rehabilitation are both arresting in scope and impact."—Paula Newberg, Toronto Globe & Mail

"The most comprehensive historical account to date of the disastrous aftermath of the American invasion. Allawi writes in a straightforward, dispassionate manner, painstakingly documenting events from the rise of the Iraqi exile politicians in the 1990s to the sectarian cleansing that began sweeping Baghdad in 2006. Few institutions or policies escape his critical eye."—Edward Wong, New York Times Book Review

“While many books have been written about Iraq's tragedy, Ali Allawi's story offers a unique insider's perspective of the global forces, local passions and diverse personalities that converged to create a situation that will haunt us for decades. An indispensable source of ideas about what happened - and what is likely to happen - in Iraq.”—Moises Naim, editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine and author of Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy

“Magisterial. . . . Pure gold. . . . Will certainly become the benchmark work against which all later books will have to be measured. It is authoritative, incisive, dispassionate, devastating in its important judgments, and wholly original. Allawi is one of a handful of men who can tell the whole story of policy, government and administration from the basis of close, personal experience.”—Roger Owen, Harvard University

“A comprehensive survey of the occupation of Iraq that highlights the complacency and failings of the American project. This is a sobering account, written from the rare view of an Iraqi insider. Allawi reveals how often the Iraqis were ignored in the chaotic rebuilding of their country and explains the complex dynamics behind Iraq's descent into violent sectarainism.”—Rory McCarthy, Jerusalem correspondent for the Guardian and author of Nobody Told Us We Are Defeated: Stories from the New Iraq 

“Ali A. Allawi, until recently an Iraqi minister, is one of Iraq's most respected politicians of the post-Saddam era. His study of the crisis in Iraq is by far the most perceptive analysis of the extent of the disaster in his country, and how it might best be resolved. It is the first real attempt to suggest the Middle East might pull out of its death spiral."--Patrick Cockburn, correspondent for the Independent and author of The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq

“Nobody was better situated than Allawi to provide readeres with unique insights to the events leading up to the invasion of Iraq and how the occupation and reconstruction efforts were handled."--Frederick Smith, United States Department of Defence

"Iraq's former defense minister tries to pinpoint the role of the country's new political class in shaping the catastrophe there."—New York Times Book Review (Editor's choice)

"The Occupation of by far the best account of the calamitous descent from the widespread euphoria of the early days that followed the fall of Saddam's regime to the corruption, savagery and wild incompetence that have characterised its recent history."---Marie Colvin, The Sunday Times 'News Review'

"Others have chronicled what went wrong.  Few have witnessed events so close up, and with so intimate a knowlege of the gap between (Iraqi) reality and (American) expectation."---The Economist

"Obviously his is a personal view but Allawi carries a gravitas that policy wonks in Foggy Bottom or Whitehall cannot match...Allawi's book must be the definitive text in post Saddam Iraq--but it is so much more than that alone."---Financial World

"How is it that what was envisaged as a straightforward project...has decended into chaos of the first order? Allawi...brings his unique experience to bear on such questions in this thought-provoking new book. Examining what the US did and did not know back in 2003, the book follows the growth of the insurgency and highlights the complex relationships between the warring factions.  This is the clearest view to date of what has happened to Iraq."---The Good Book Guide

"Allawi's book is curiously inspiriting."---James Buchan, The Spectator

"He has just published a book, The Occupation of Iraq, which I recommend to anyone interested in an unvarnished account of the first phase of this war and what followed."---John Dizard, The Financial Times

"[Allawi's] book is the first on the war written by a senior Iraqi official, and it is the most comprehensive historical account to date of the disastrous aftermath of the American invasion. Allawi writes in a straightforward, dispassionate manner, painstakingly documenting events from the rise of the Iraqi exile politicians in the 1990s to the secretarian cleansing that began sweeping Baghdad in 2006. Few institutions or policies escape his critical eye, and his words are all the more biting because as a nephew of the former Pentagon favourite Ahmad Chalabi, he was among the Iraqis who benefited most from the toppling of Saddam Hussein."---Edward Wong, International Herald Tribune

"The Occupation of Iraq is a personal testimony.  Allawi's criticisms are the more striking because he was not an outright opponent of the war, and certainly no supporter of the insurgency...[His book] should be read by everyone who wants to understand this sad affair." --- Oliver Miles, The Guardian

Winner of the Robert and Joan Bendetson Global Diplomacy Initiative Award, given by the Institute for Global Leadership, Tufts University

‘ In his fine new book the learned and moderate Ali Allawi, an Iraqi minister of defence and finance after the invasion, explains this tragedy with intimate knowledge of the situation and in sparkling detail and elegant prose’---Hugh O’Shaughnessy, Tribune

'Overall, The Occupation of Iraq is a very useful and informative insight into the current situation of the country.'  - Zainab Rahim, The Muslim News

"An insider without an ax to grind—unless it be the obligation of mea culpa—Ali Allawi marshals his facts as a scholar and cites extensive personal interviews for his claims. A deep sadness pervades the book's preface, in which Allawi explains his commitment to a liberated Iraq while acknowledging the terrible failure that Americans and Iraqis share. Different motives and justifications may have prompted each to act, but, as Allawi grimly admits, arrogance and ignorance came together in a perfect storm, leaving 25 million people more burdened and fearful than ever."—Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, Commonweal

"There is no shortage of accounts by U.S. and British diplomats, military officers, and political appointees of Iraq's occupation, but the voice of Iraqi participants has been nearly silent. In The Occupation of Iraq, Allawi, an activist in the Iraqi opposition who returned to his country after liberation to become, in succession, Iraq's minister of trade, defense, and finance, remedies this. The result is a product far superior to that provided by instant experts and journalists."—Middle East Quarterly

"A masterly history of the occupation from the standpoint of the occupied; it shows us what the various parts of Iraqi society have been concerned with and why, and therefore lets us see why the occupation could hardly have been other than foredoomed."—Angelo M. Codevilla, Claremont Review of Books

"Very much a view of the war in Iraq from the point of view of an insider with an outsider's perspective. . . . All the causes, historical constants, that have made Iraq a volatile zone are examined. . . . A compelling examination."—Steven Carroll, The Age, (Australia)

"This book, written from an insider's point of view, does not always praise the United States' actions in the Iraq war. The book is dense with dozens of terms and names explained at the beginning but offers a razor-sharp interpretation of Iraq's political history leading up to the current war. His book offers stark evidence of Saddam Hussein's and the U.S. Government's personal biases and how those partialities led to war. Once the U.S.-led Coalition Forces entered Iraq, how did intellignece go so wrong, and how did the forces pick up the pieces and move on? Once it was clear that elections would be held, what were the threats and how were they overcome? I recommend this book for larger public libraries."—Tina Maria Beaird, University Press Books (Oustanding title for 2008)

"A superb book. . . . Allawi's perspective is marked by enduring insights, historical depth, and nuanced understanding of the factions struggling to take control of Iraq's future. . . . This book is a must-read for advanced students of the Middle East and Iraq. Above all, it should be required reading for the 'experts' who made the case for invading Iraq—especially those who are advocating the same for Iran. "—Political Science Quarterly

"Ali Allawi . . . tells the war's story from an Iraqi perspective. But what makes The Occupation of Iraq perhaps the most compelling of all books written to date about the war is that he does so with Americans in mind. . . . He is an astute observer of the inside game who does not forget that there is life—and death—on the streets."—World Magazine

"[This book] is worthy of inclusion in any public library collection."—Brad Hooper, Booklist

“Ali Allawi covers an important period in Iraq’s history, from early days of the occupation to the installation of the first constitutional government in 2006” — Salam Abdulqadir Abdulrahman, International Journal of Environmental Studies

Listed as #9 on the Editors' Top 10 List in Current Events for 2007 by

Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title, 2008 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.
ISBN: 9780300110159
Publication Date: April 9, 2007
544 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
20 b/w illus.