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Iraq has no hope of political change coming via Iran or the US

BAGHDAD, IRAQ - AUGUST 11: Supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr continue sit-in protest on the 13th day with the tents that they set up around the Parliament building in the Green Zone, Baghdad, Iraq on August 11, 2022. ( Murtadha Al-Sudani - Anadolu Agency )
Supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr continue sit-in protest on the 13th day with the tents that they set up around the Parliament building in the Green Zone, Baghdad, Iraq on August 11, 2022. [Murtadha Al-Sudani - Anadolu Agency]

Nearly two years after the parliamentary election in Iraq, the parliament in Baghdad has still not been able to choose a new prime minister. This is primarily due to rivalry between Shia parties, especially those affiliated with Iran. They do not want the rug to be pulled from under their feet, having been at the forefront of Iraqi politics since the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein.

It is clear that the political scene in Iraq is complex due to these divisions, multiple crises and the influence of the Popular Mobilisation Forces' militia, which is affiliated with Iran. As such, Iraq is likely to remain without a new prime minister to assume executive authority.

There is no doubt that the Sadrist movement's victory in the election surprised everyone and frightened Iran and its proxies in Iraq; the movement led by Muqtada Al-Sadr is not accountable to Iran. It is the opposite of all the Shia organisations with which it is clashing. Al-Sadr also clashed with the Americans after their invasion of his country, and put himself a safe distance from Iran, unlike Nouri Al-Maliki's Coordination Framework which is subservient to Tehran and has obstructed the formation of a new government by keeping its parliamentarians away from the sessions to choose the prime minister. No legal quorum has thus been possible so the vacuum persists. This prompted Al-Sadr to announce his withdrawal from parliament; the Sadrist movement MPs resigned, and his supporters stormed the parliament building and held a protest sit-in. He has called on his supporters to stage demonstrations across Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Coordination Framework sought to mobilise its supporters for anti-Sadrist demonstrations near the Green Zone, as if it were a war of demonstrations and feuding policies to prove strength and arms. This all suggests that there could be a terrifying clash in Iraq that may push the country towards political and security unrest, and civil war.

READ: Sadr aide warns of continuous attempts to divide power in Iraq

Al-Sadr has escalated the situation by putting pressure on parliament to announce by the end of this week the date of an early legislative election, even as his supporters continue to besiege the parliament building. It is a smart move as he tries to win over supporters from the Framework and convince them to demonstrate under his banner. He addressed them using emotive language to stir their patriotic spirit, saying that he agrees with the masses about the pervasiveness of corruption in Iraq, and calling upon Coordination Framework supporters to help save the country from occupation, terrorism and corruption.

At the same time, Al-Sadr sent a decisive message to Al-Maliki and his colleagues in the Framework; his language was both a warning and a threat. Demonstrations must be peaceful in order to preserve civil peace, he insisted. If Al-Maliki refuses to countenance this, his Framework will be left to seek reform alone, and Sadrists will respond to any attempt to clash with the masses demonstrating under Muqtada Al-Sadr's banner.

The call for a new parliamentary election would probably see Al-Maliki's Framework lose more seats than it did last year. Meanwhile, he is clinging to the current parliament.

In his efforts to boost Iraqi patriotism after nineteen years of US occupation and governments which combined corruption, sectarianism and criminality, Al-Sadr is also calling for the establishment of a new presidential system.

The current stagnation and crises call for rational thinking in order to preserve civil peace and the interests of the people, away from the regulating texts that cannot produce a solution and may even exacerbate the problems given the fact that everyone is armed.

The great dilemma facing all political forces is that they failed to build state institutions after the 2003 US invasion. Today they are incapable of providing the least of what even the weakest countries offer to their citizens.

We know from history that nations and civilisations are not built on empty theories and slogans that do not originate out of the reality of people's lives and suffering. It is the active people who believe in their cause and are willing to make every sacrifice by giving their lives and money as the price to pay for the victory of their principles. Hence, the people of Iraq must rely on themselves and understand their own importance and the vital role that they must play in order to achieve the desired change. Iraq has no hope of political change that comes through Iran or the US.

READ: Iraq Popular Mobilisation Forces reject Sadr's call to dissolve Parliament

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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