Sunday July 31, 2022

Political logjam is on in Baghdad

Political logjam is on in Baghdad

Muqtada Al Sadr

On Wednesday, and again on Saturday, supporters of Moqtada Al-Sadr’s followers stormed the Parliament because they oppose the nomination of Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani as prime minister because he is seen as belonging to the pro-Iran Shia group.

Al-Sudani was nominated by former prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki, from the Coordination Framework. Al-Sadr is opposed to Al-Maliki, and Al-Sadr is responsible for the 2019 protests that brought down the Al-Maliki government and led to the elections of October 2021.

Though the Al-Sadr bloc had 74 seats in the Parliament following the election , he has not been able to form the government with the Kurdish and Sunni groups. And he made the political mistake of withdrawing from Parliament.

According to the Iraqi electoral system, when a winner resigns from his or her seat, then the person who stood in the second position is declared the winner. And that is what had happened.

The rivals of Al-Sadr emerged as winners in the legislature. But the Al-Sadr group is not willing to let the pro-Iranian group take over.

Iraqi security forces had to use tear gas and water cannon to disperse Al-Sadr supporters when they breached into the high-security Green Zone in the national capital which houses important government buildings.

The Health Ministry sources said that 60 people were injured in the clash between Al-Sadr’s supporters and security forces. On Wednesday, the supporters of Al-Sadr withdrew from parliament house after the leader tweeted asking them to return. Caretaker prime minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi appealed to the protesters to maintain peace.

Al-Sadr’s supporters are firm that the old leaders with their record of corruption should not be allowed to form the government. One of the protesters, Haidar Al-Lami, said, “We are here for a revolution. We don’t want the corrupt, we don’t those who have been in power to return…since 2003…they have only brought us harm.”

It is going to be difficult to bring in a new government which has no connections with the politicians who have been active since 2003 though the country surely needs a new generation of sincere and honest leaders. This demand will make the formation of the government an impossible task.

Zeidon Alkinani, an analyst with Arab Centre in Washington is of the view that it is the rivalry between Al-Sadr and Al-Maliki that is at the root of the crisis. He says, “Another layer to this crisis is the personal rivalry between Al-Maliki -- who is the most influential politician in the Coordination Framework – and Al-Sadr. This rivalry has been going on since 2006 It’s an ideological and military rivalry that has been affecting the daily life of ordinary Iraqis.”

The rivalry between the two Shiite leaders is choking the Iraqi political process. Of the two, Al-Sadr reveals Iraqi nationalism in a pronounced fashion, and that makes him reach out to the Sunnis and Kurds to form a broad national front.

Meanwhile, the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation (PMF) had repelled a Daesh attack in Tarmiyah district, north of Baghdad. The PMF is a combined force of Shiite militias created under the influence of Shiite cleric Ali Al-Sistani.

The PMF had turned out to be a double-edged sword when one of the groups, Hashd Al-Shaabi had also attacked American forces in Iraq.

Iraq is caught in the difficult position of keeping itself independent of both American and Iranian influences as Al-Sadr envisions it, and also fight militancy of the Daesh kind. Iraq has form a national force – Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds – to fight Daesh on the one hand, and to strengthen Iraq on the economic front.

Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party made Iraq economically viable but Hussein’s political tyranny was unacceptable.

The responsibility of leaders like Al-Sadr, Al-Maliki and others is to turn their attention to economic development and for that political stability is a prerequisite.


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