Iraq and the Swiss Model — First, Understand the Problem

Brian Azevedo
5 min readApr 4, 2019

(this was originally a response to a comment on my overview of Swiss society and governance, entitled “The People are the Sovereign

Iraq is an artificial country. Like so many post-colonial states, Iraq was composed of borders drawn for the convenience of the colonial powers and not because of any shared qualities of the folks who live within them. Also, during the Mandatory period, the British used the tactic of installing a minority group (Sunni Arabs) as a ruling class over the majority (Shia Arabs). This followed from Ottoman practice, who also favored Sunni over Shia, as the Sunni followed their chosen branch of Islam and also respected the Ottoman sultans as caliphs (God’s leader on earth — kind of pope/emperors).

Latif al Ani. Yarmouk Housing Project Offices, 1962. © Artist and the Arab Image Foundation.

As importantly, Iraq is the heartland of Shia Islam. The main Shia shrine (Karbala) is in southern Iraq, where the last Shia caliph Hussein was killed in the year 680 CE. Most of the inhabited area of Iraq (the Tigris and Euphrates valleys) was also part of the Persian (Shia) Safavid empire from ~1300 to 1736.