Antichrist Could Break Iran’s Grip on Iraqi Politics

Iraqi supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr's movement celebrate after Iraq's Supreme Court ratified the results of parliamentary election, in Najaf, Iraq, Dec. 27, 2021.
Iraqi supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement celebrate after Iraq’s Supreme Court ratified the results of parliamentary election, in Najaf, Iraq, Dec. 27, 2021.

Election Victory of Shiite Cleric Could Break Iran’s Grip on Iraqi Politics, Observers Say

AMMAN, JORDAN —

With Iraq’s October parliamentary election results now ratified, political parties are negotiating the composition of the country’s next government.

Observers say they see alliances between different groups changing, not based on ideology but on narrow political interests. The central focus now is on who will become Iraq’s next prime minister as the country struggles over its future direction.

The election victory by nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has the potential to break Iran’s grip on Iraqi politics, observers say. 

Osama Al Sharif, an Amman-based Middle East political commentator, says al-Sadr is one of Iraq’s few political figures calling for the dissolution of armed pro-Iranian militias.

Writing in the Saudi Arab News daily, Al Sharif said al-Sadr’s Sairoon alliance is “the only one brave enough to denounce the political quota system and the rampant corruption beleaguering the new Iraq.” 

And perhaps that’s precisely why, Al Sharif said, Iraqi voters gave al-Sadr’s parliamentary bloc 73 seats “at the expense of pro-Iran blocs such as Hadi Al-Amiri’s Fatah coalition — a political front for the pro-Iran militias.” 

But Iraqi journalist Mina Al Oraibi, writing in Dubai’s The National newspaper, says that despite al-Sadr’s win, he does not have a majority. “Given the shifting alliances,” she wrote, “it is unclear whether [he] can pull together a majority in parliament to name the next prime minister, who will be tasked with forming the future government.” 

Al Oraibi and other observers say they would like to see Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi maintain his position, saying that “al-Kadhimi still represents Iraq’s best chance at stability.” 

Senior analyst Nicholas Heras with the Newlines Institute in Washington says there are no guarantees at this time that al-Kadhimi will keep his post. 

“There is a distinct possibility that Kadhimi will be replaced. Although there is no clear answer as to who his replacement would be. Fundamentally, Kadhimi came into office in the spring of 2020 as sort of a compromise candidate. The Iranians, the Americans, the Shia, the Sunni, the Kurds, other groups could all sort of come to the agreement that he was the best of whatever was available in terms of options, and there is still this sense that Kadhimi could play that role,” Heras said. 

Journalist Al Oraibi says al-Kadhimi’s strength as prime minister is “that he is not beholden to a political party and is largely seen as a nationalist, not swayed by ethnic or sectarian beliefs.”

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