What's happening in Iraq?

What's happening in Iraq?
Update: 05 August 2022 23:00
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Chaos in Iraq a consequence of “power struggle between regional and international powers”

The crisis of state in Iraq continues to escalate. The deep rifts between the components and parties that make up the state and the government show how difficult it will be to find an imminent solution for the future. Iraq is going through a turbulent time. But the fact that at the center of the debate and division is the struggle for power and the clash of powers shows once again that a democratic way out is not possible.

In the last elections, 75% of the people in Iraq and Southern Kurdistan did not go to the polls. When the legitimacy of the elections was questioned, the UN Special Representative for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis, stated after a meeting with the parties and the High Electoral Council of Iraq on election night, while the count was still underway, that voter turnout in Iraq and Southern Kurdistan was 35%. The UN has been intensively preparing for the elections for more than two years. Immediately after the election results were announced, the Sadrist Movement, known to be affiliated with global powers, the Sunni Sovereignty Coalition, founded by Sunni leaders Mohammed Halbousi and Khamis Al-Khanjar, and the KDP were declared to have won a majority.

The Shiites who are affiliated with Iran, issued sharp statements directed at the UN special envoy to Iraq, declaring that the election results were fraudulent. The parties then called on their supporters to take to the streets. The protests were directed against Mustafa Kadhimi and the UN Special Representative for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis. The night after a youth was killed in the protests, drones attacked Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi's home in Baghdad's security zone while he was at home. The attack was a message that pro-Iranian Shiite parties would not accept the election results.

The first signs of a deep conflict between the U.S. and Turkish-backed Sadr movement, the KDP and the Coalition for Sunni Sovereignty, and the Iranian-backed coordination framework were already evident. After more than 10 months of infighting, during which the Sadrist movement's withdrawal from parliament brought a breath of fresh air to Iraq and the formation of a new government defused political tensions, Sadr resorted to drastic means, announcing the start of a "peaceful revolution." As Sadr's supporters continue to resist in the Green Zone, let us briefly examine what has happened in the process:

In Iraq's parliamentary elections on October 10, 2021, the Sadrist Movement won 75 seats and became the first party. The Sadrist Movement formed the "Alliance to Save the Fatherland" with the KDP and the Sunni Sovereignty Coalition to form a government. Shiite groups close to Iran formed an umbrella organization called the Coordination Framework with the participation of the YNK and the Sunni Azim Coalition. The Sadrist Movement nominated Jafar al-Sadr for prime minister, but the alliance with the KDP and the Sunni Sovereignty Coalition to form a government failed.  The Sadrist Movement nominated a prime minister in the person of Jafar al-Sadr, but the alliance with the KDP and the Sunni Sovereignty Coalition to form a government failed.  After the failure of the Sadrist movement to form a government with the Alliance for the Salvation of the Fatherland, Muqtada al-Sadr called on all his deputies to resign and withdrew from parliament. While there were rumors that the Coordination Framework might have nominated Maliki, audio recordings emerged of Maliki talking about Sadr. Sadr called on Maliki to repent and quit politics. Sadr claimed Maliki threatened him with death. On July 25, the Coordination Framework nominated Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, a former minister known to be close to Maliki, as its candidate for prime minister. Last Wednesday, supporters of the Sadrist Movement entered the Green Zone and stormed the parliament building, while Ssadr called al-Sudani the second Maliki.

Supporters of the Sadrist Movement have been protesting in the Green Zone since last Saturday, and the Coordination Framework has called on its supporters to take to the streets as well.  For his part, Sadr called for the withdrawal of Sudani's candidacy and an end to corruption. Sadr supporters are directing their protests against Nouri Maliki and Sudani in person while, the parliament building and the Supreme Judicial Council in institution. The Coordination Framework says that the protests have benefited Prime Minister Kadhimi and that Kadhimi thought that the protests would allow him to remain in the prime minister's office and that he therefore did not take serious security measures against the protests. At the same time, he characterizes the raid on parliament and other developments as a joint coup attempt by Sadr and Kadhimi. The tensions between Sadr and Maliki pose the risk of internal conflict among Iraq's Shiites.

Sadr's recent televised address to the nation, in which he stated that dialogue with the Coordination Framework would not produce results and that they would therefore not engage in dialogue, is likely to further exacerbate tensions. In the same speech, Sadr's call for the dissolution of parliament with a call for early general elections became the main topic of debate. In his speech, Sadr also reiterated that he had been threatened by Maliki and had agreed to die as a martyr. Immediately after Sadr's statement, former Prime Minister Nouri Maliki declared that the solution to the problems lies in the constitution.

It is very difficult to predict where the process will evolve on a ground like Iraq. While Iraq risks being dragged into a deep civil war, the role of Ayatollah Khamenei or Ayatollah Sistani, the most important authorities among the Shiites, may provide a solution in the short term. It is a known fact that a short-term solution will not last long. This is because the current crisis, or the chaos that is unfolding, is not a crisis created by the political forces in Iraq, but rather a power struggle between regional and international powers.