Al-Bu Nasir (Iraqi tribe)

The Al-Bu Nasir (in the Arabic: آل أبي ناصر) is one of a number of Arab tribes in Iraq. It is a Sunni Arab tribe comprising some 30,000 people who primarily inhabit the town of Tikrit and the surrounding area of northern central Iraq, as well as many other area in south and center of Iraq. Although not very numerous, the Al-Bu Nasir nonetheless obtained a reputation of being "a difficult lot of people, cunning and secretive, whose poverty drove most of them to pervert the Bedouins' legendary qualities of being warlike and fearless."[1] Like many Iraqi tribes, it follows the Hanafi fiqh and it traced its origins to the Arabian peninsula and maintained cordial ties with other related clans and tribes.[2]

Al-Bu Nasir
البو ناصر
LocationTikrit, Iraq
ReligionSunni Islam

The tribe rose to prominence in the 1960s, when one of its members, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, seized power in Iraq. Bakr's successor, Saddam Hussein, was also a member of the Al-Bu Nasir and the tribe became a crucial element of his hold in power from 1979 to 2003. Saddam drew heavily on the tribe to fill the upper echelons of his government and in particular to manage his security apparatus, notably the Intelligence Service and the Special Republican Guard.[3] Most of the key posts in the Iraqi government were held by members of the Beijat clan group and Majid extended family to which Saddam belonged; some elements of the regime's security apparatus, such as Saddam's bodyguards, were recruited exclusively from the al-Bu Nasir[4]

The relatively small size of the tribe was, however, an obstacle to Saddam's ability to fully "tribalise" the institutions of the Iraqi government. He recruited tens of thousands of supporters, whom he placed in command positions in the Iraqi Army, from a number of other tribes allied to the al-Bu Nasir. The resulting network of tribal alliances, centred on the al-Bu Nasir and bound to them by payment and patronage, provided the backbone of Saddam's regime.[5]

The power of the al-Bu Nasir and their tribal allies reached its zenith in the 1990s, when Saddam's regime was under great strain from the effects of international sanctions. Tribal chiefs were given extensive patronage, money and weapons as well as membership of the national assembly as a means of binding them to the regime. The old Ba'ath Party structures were to some extent sidelined in favour of an explicitly tribal power structure centred on the al-Bu Nasir.[6] However, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein greatly reduced the influence of the al-Bu Nasir in the new Iraq.

Notable members


  1. Said K. Aburish, quoted in Olsen, p. 177
  2. Eric Davis, Memories of State: politics, history, and collective identity in modern Iraq, p. 177. University of California Press, 2005. ISBN 0-520-23546-0
  3. John Andreas Olsen, "Strategic Air Power in Desert Storm", pp. 179, 215-218. Routledge, 2003. ISBN 0-7146-5193-1
  4. Toby Dodge, Inventing Iraq: The Failure of Nation-Building and a History Denied, p. 161. C. Hurst & Co, 2003. ISBN 1-85065-728-9
  5. Barry M. Rubin, Crises in the Contemporary Persian Gulf, p. 204-205. Routledge, 2002. ISBN 0-7146-5267-9
  6. William Roe Polk, Understanding Iraq: a whistlestop tour from ancient Babylon to occupied Baghdad, p. 159. I.B. Tauris, 2005. ISBN 1-84511-123-0
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