Iraq's Business World

Iraq is home to a variety of religions, cultures and social groups, and although the state itself is young, the area has a history of over 5 millennia. The country has undergone three wars and many years of political and economic sanctions to emerge as a contributing member of the international community. To conduct business in Iraq, you will need to understand the country's culture, history, and approach to daily life.

Iraqi culture focuses on the individual's formation of their identity; an Iraqi's life is very compartmentalized- their public and private lives are very clearly divided. The tribe or family makes up a person's inner circle and shapes their social and business network as well as their conduct. As far as business is concerned, you will usually find that your Iraqi contemporaries place a deep emphasis on close relationships.

Once being part of the Ottoman Empire, the country of Iraq won its sovereignty in 1932. The republic was established in 1958 after the monarchy was overthrown, and it later fell under the control of the Baath party. During the 80s, the Kurds in Iraq wanted more autonomy; today they occupy Kurdistan in the northern part of the country.

Since then, Iraq's economy has been negatively impacted by war, militarization, and long-standing economic sanctions. However, Iraq's economic and political faces have undergone a transformation as sovereignty has been handed back over to the Iraqi interim government.

There are two segments of Iraqi life that, once understood, will help you conduct business more successfully. They are family and the avoidance of uncertainty. In Iraq, the family is the base upon which all other relationships are established; the family provides a social network and help when it's needed. The family regulates a person's religious, economic and political activities, and it also determines their rights and obligations. Iraqis take a protective stance toward their relatives, and a sense of obligation to the extended family. For this reason, Iraqi businesspeople tend to trust their relatives more than they do outsiders.

The second aspect of Iraqi business and personal life is the avoidance of uncertainty. The Iraqi culture is full of very stringent laws, rules, regulations and policies; they serve to reduce or eliminate ambiguity and to avoid unforeseen circumstances. When conducting business in Iraq, decisions are arrived at gradually, risks are seldom taken and change is not welcomed.

As is the case in most other Muslim countries, businesses in Iraq are hierarchical in nature. There is a very strong concept of authority, and a distance of power which creates a sharp separation between those in leadershp positions and those working as subordinates. Because of the hierarchy, business decisions are always made from the top down, either by council or one person.

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