Why the Antichrist Failed to Reform Iraq

Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraqi militia leader and Shiite Muslim cleric, gives a news conference in the central holy shrine city of Najaf, on November 18, 2021.

Why Muqtada al-Sadr Failed to Reform Iraq

Iraq’s most recent election promised change but ended up entrenching the establishment.

March 10, 2022, 9:27 AM

Many observers predicted that Iraq’s elections last October would be a potential turning point in the country’s long struggle to find stability since 2003. Instead, the protracted government formation process has featured political violence against opponents, including tit-for-tat assassinations in the south, bombings of political offices and linked businesses, and even an attempt on the prime minister’s life. It has seen the judiciary weaponized to target opponents with lawsuits and disqualify candidates. Foreign powers, including Iran, have also directly intervened to prevent a change to the system of government.

All of this suggests that change is not on the horizon for Iraq. The country is still stuck in familiar cycles of violence with no clear path out.

Some experts have found this especially disappointing because the election results had initially hinted at change. Shiite populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr defeated his competitors by a significant margin, winning 73 seats. His rivals from the previous election, the Iran-allied Fatah Alliance, lost 31 seats and now only has 17 seats. His other rival, former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, has only 35 seats. Sadr was widely predicted to play the role of kingmaker.

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