The Antichrist’s New Endgame

Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr attends a meeting with Shia political leaders in Baghdad, Iraq December 2, 2021. (REUTERS)

Sadr’s new endgame

Will Sadr be able to continue trying to lure potential allies in light of the fear that is gripping them? As it grapples with that question, Iraq will live in a different sort of hell.Tuesday 18/01/2022

Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr attends a meeting with Shia political leaders in Baghdad, Iraq December 2, 2021. (REUTERS)

The dialogue between the victorious and defeated Shia political parties in the recent Iraqi elections has ended in failure. That was expected. It was also expected that this failure would lead to some armed confrontation.

That confrontation was not expected to take place indirectly. This is however what actually happened when the headquarters of the parties allied with Moqtada al-Sadr were the targets of armed attacks. It is not difficult to pin the blame for these on the militias backing the losing parties in the elections.

The attacks constituted an initial threat to the Sunni and Kurdish parties which have decided it is in their interests to ally themselves with Sadr in a decisive confrontation with the political parties which have clearly lost their popular base, who now owe their existence to the armed might of the Popular Mobilisation Forces.

Today, the picture is no longer ambiguous but the political scene is due to become murkier. Rising violence will rule the next stage. Sadr’s allies may retreat from their alliance with him, but they will not retreat to the point of allying themselves with his enemies. These will become increasingly fierce in their search of an opportunity to abort Sadr’s dream of constituting the largest parliamentary bloc and therefore being entitled to forming a government.

The condition of the Sunni and Kurdish blocs will be that the Shia parties must resolve their differences, which is unlikely to happen. The two sides have parted ways and a middle-of-the-road path compromise is no longer possible.

The political delay will be prolonged and a new government will not be formed to succeed Mustafa Kadhimi’s administration, which will remain in existence for a long time but will be deprived of powers..

It has become clear that the defeated parties are no longer satisfied with the developments unfolding around them. They have come to the conclusion that since their own defeat, their former allies no longer need them.  They might as well conspire against them after realising how narrow their popular support base has become.  That support base is now only composed of militia members who may lose their livelihoods if their parties’ domination of the state and its wealth is over.

The logic here is that their electoral defeat epitomised a conspiracy aimed at weakening their ability to control relations between the so-called “Iraqi components” within the sectarian quota system.  This is not acceptable, not only from Iran’s perspective but also from that of those who run the corruption machine in the country, as overlapping interests have become the basis for managing the state’s structure. It is not unlikely that the government, any government, will be incapable of real action if the followers of the parties controlling the sinews of the state refuse to obey its orders and work instead to sabotage its projects.

The defeated Shia parties continue to press for the election results to be annulled,  even though the Federal Supreme Court has confirmed them. They had expected Sadr to give precedence to his sectarian affiliation and to prioritise that affiliation over any discord that the acceptance of the results might cause within the illusory “Shia house.” The solution was to be the return to a consensus formula instead of the reality of election results. From that perspective, Shia politics would regain its cohesion in the face of “the others” who would eventually consider themselves to be mere appendices, likely to benefit from the consensus as long as they abide by whatever Shia decision is reached.

However, Sadr was obstinate. He began tempting “the others” with the weakness of Shia parties under the slogan of a national majority government. Parties were in shock when he proceeded to act on his idea, which in reality was nothing but an attempt to consolidate the dominance of the Sadrist Movement over the political scene, with Sunni-Kurdish allies backing him.

Therefore, it was necessary for the parties to disrupt the political project, which, if it succeeded, could lead to a new political system. It is true that Sadr-instituted regime will also be sectarian, but this time it will exclude Iran’s most subservient allies. This means building a new state that will not be based on the ready-made US-Iranian deals.

The parties have preferred to start with the weak links before they launched their attack on Sadr. Weakening him politically before exhausting him militarily. They may not need an armed confrontation if his Sunni and Kurdish supporters desert him.

Other players will have to avoid stepping into the forbidden zone.

Will Sadr be able to continue trying to lure potential allies in light of the fear that is gripping them?

As it grapples with that question, Iraq will live in a different sort of hell.

Written ByFarouk Yousef

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