This article criticizes the way in which the concept of ‘tribalism’ has been used by Western policy-makers and media in post-2003 Iraq. It has been commonplace to see tribalism as yet another symptom of the supposed ‘fragmentation’ of Iraqi society, and there has been a debate about ways in which a tribe-oriented policy might bring about national reintegration and political progress. Using the case of Banū Mālik – the ‘tribe of Prime Minister Nūrī al-Mālikī’ – it is demonstrated that tribalism is a poor predictor of political behaviour in Iraq and that basic ‘bread-and-butter’ issues are of far greater importance to the population of the country, just like in most other countries in the world.

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