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Interview

Sadr, Allies Won’t Allow New Govt. In Iraq: Expert

Wednesday 14 September 2022
Sadr, Allies Won’t Allow New Govt. In Iraq: Expert

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Alwaght- Whereas after Muqtada al-Sadr's departure from the Iraqi politics, the Shiite Coordination Framework (SCF) announced its reasdiness to help elect a president and form a new government with other parties, the Sunni and Kurdish factions are still undecided about working with the all-Shiite bloc to put an end to the months-long political stalemate. 

On Monday, the Kurdish and Sunni leaders emphasized that they will not accept a government without Sadrist Movement, despite their opposition to al-Sadr's snap election calls, making the outlook for a new cabinet remain dim. 

Alwaght arranged an interview with Sayed Hadi Afghahi, an Iranian expert of West Asian affairs, asking him for elaboration on Iraqi developments. 

Home and foreign obstructions continue 

Mr Afghahi called al-Sadr's walkout from the politics a "political compliment" that should not to be taken seriously. 

He continued that Al-Sadr's resignation from politics is not the first time and in the past he withdrew from the political arena several times but returned. Even before holding the parliamentary elections last year, he had sworn that the Sadrist movement would not participate in the elections, but they participated and won the majority. Therefore, his resignation is more of a political maneuvering than a definitive decision. After departure, he tweeted and intervened in political issues and even managed the clashes in the Green Zone of Baghdad between the government forces and the Saraya al-Salam armed group. If it was not for his ceasefire and the withdrawal order from the Green Zone, no one could have managed the standoff. Therefore, his decision is not serious and some may miscalculate and be happy that al-Sadr will not participate in political equations, but this will not happen. 

There are many internal and external obstacles in the way of the government formation. Among the internal obstacles is the Sadrist Movement. A-Sadr may personally not enter the political arena for the sake of protecting his image, but his forces, such as bloc and its representatives, especially "Saleh Mohammad Al-Iraqi", who is known as al-Sadr's minister, continue to interfere in political affairs and threaten other political groups. Also, "Hakem al-Zamieli", who is one of the security figures of the Sadrist movement, continues to hamper political talks, and these people will not allow the election of the prime minister and president. 

Also, there are other obstacles and they are the Kurdish and Sunni parties with which al-Sadr formed a coalition to form the government, but they did not succeed. Therefore, his two partners are constantly consulting and will not allow the Coordination Framework to easily form a government and elect a prime minister. Also, the speaker of the parliament, Mohammad Al-Halbusi, does not want the Coordination Framework to choose the prime minister and form a government, and is blocking this path. Add to these the Barzanis of Kurdistan who may coalesce with al-Halbousi and take the parliamentary session out of the majority. 

There are many foreign obstacles and there is an grave triangle that determines many of Iraq's destinies, with America and England at the top of them. Also, the Israeli regime is active in Iraq under the cover of American and British diplomats, and Saudi Arabia is active inside Iraq with the help of its media and satellite networks, and online. These countries are great obstacles for the stability of Iraq, but it should be seen that the Iraqi Federal Court will have the last word and if it can continue its moderate and national positions and stop these obstructions. So far, it opposed the request to dissolve the parliament, so it remains to be seen whether this policy will continue in the future. In this critical situation, political groups and religious scholars should intervene and not allow American plans to be implemented with national understandings. The US is looking for a political and legal vacuum in Iraq, and this issue is the basis for the emergence of many crises, including protests and conflicts, and even can lead to a coup. Although the country is in a state of a standoff, the opposition forces are pushing for dissolution of the parliament. 

Ongoing inter-Sunni and inter-Kurdish differences blocking settlement to crisis 

While admitting that there are inter-Shiite fractures, Mr Afghahi suggests that there are inter-Sunni differences, mainly between Mohammad Al-Halbousi and Khamis Khanjar, a prominent Sunni businessman and politician. There are also differences among the Kurds, between Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). So far, the presidential post was a share of the PUK, but now Masoud Barzani, of KDP, feels that he has become more powerful and this post should be his party's. The Kurds have not been able to agree on a joint candidate. Therefore, as long as these parties not agree and do not distribute the ministries among themselves, the political deadlock will continue and it does not matter to any of these groups how long Iraq will have this unstable situation. It does not even matter if this country creeps to civil war. The US encourages this insecurity, and Saudi Arabia is after a weak government in Iraq and considers a strong and coherent government in Baghdad a threat to itself. 

SCF seeking national unity government 

The Iranian expert continued that the main resort of the Coordination Framework is the legal process, namely the constitution, and the parliament rules, and the decisions of the Supreme Court. The Coordination Framework repeatedly said that they obey the Court's decisions. The Court since the beginning of the crisis insisted that if the constitution should change, the parliament dissolve, or the election laws change, legal process must be followed. Since the political system of Iraq is parliamentary, all these actions must be done inside the parliament and the political groups should have a consensus on it, and the Supreme Court cannot interfere in the dissolution of the parliament and has twice announced that it does not have the right to dissolve the parliament. Therefore, the Coordination Framework is in harmony with the Supreme Court in this case. 

Mr Afghahi went on to say that another issue is that the Coordination Framework alone cannot form a government and their slogan is the formation of a national unity government in which all political factions must participate and have power in it in proportion to the percentage of their parliamentary seats, and the constitution is based on a quota system. On the other hand, al-Sadr, who was drawn to the path of difference and started the armed clashes, pushed for the formation of a majority government and implementation of the policy of "neither East nor West". He said that he was ready to form an alliance with al-Halbousi and, but he would not allow Coordination Framework to join in.

Unfortunately, this is a dangerous path that al-Sadr has taken and he is not willing to reconcile with the Shiites and Nouri al-Maliki, the head of the State of Law bloc, and he does not allow the formation of a government of national unity. If the Coordination Framework really wants to form the government, first of all, it must reach an agreement with al-Sadr and his representatives so that the authority of the Shiites, who are the majority in the parliament, not be broken. But it is not clear whether al-Sadr is aware of this issue or not. The premiership is the right of the Shiites, but when al-Sadr breaks their majority and forms an alliance with Barzani and Al-Halbousi, he weakens the Shiite coalition most of all, and this issue becomes an excuse for the Kurds and Sunnis to easily break the majority of Shiites in the parliament in the future. Therefore, al-Sadr has caused a fracture within the Shiite majority. The path ahead of the Coordination Framework is very difficult, and it certainly cannot form a purely Shiite government on its own, and it does not want this either. Shiites emphasize that each party must take its share of the cabinet and political power in proportion to the seats it has in the parliament, and this is its doctrine. 

Unresolvable challenge of picking prime minister 

Mr Afghahi added that the Kurdish parties can name their candidate and it is the lawmakers that make the final decision. He does not find election of president the key obstacle; rather, it is the way of election of the PM which is a Shiite share and they should reach a consensus and form a national unity government. But so far, al-Sadr has played as an obstructor and insisted on majority government, or snap election. 

However, early elections are not easily possible and have many problems. Last year's elections were hit by fraud claims and complaints were filed, and it was clear that last year's elections were rigged and Coordination Framework proved to the Court that the vote operation was manipulated. However, al-Sadr's hope is that his party and his allies will be final winners if early elections are held and they will be able to elect the prime minister and form a national majority government instead of a national unity. Together with the Sunnis and the Kurds, al-Sadr secured 193 seats, while 221 votes was needed to form a government. In the second session, only 150 votes were secured and failed to form a new government. It is unclear what al-Sadr's reasoning is that he insists on a majority government. This is the essential challenge. 

Continuation of stalemate in favor of the US and Saudi Arabia 

In the final part of his words, Mr Afghahi recommended that the Iraqi parties should excercis wisdom and understanding and prioritize national interests. He added that Qom clergy should also step in and reconcile the Shiites and bring back al-Sadr on the track and remind him that Iraq is now on the brink and even if back-to-back elections are held, there will be no use. Currently, continuation of legal vacuum and government and dead-end opens the door for regrowth of terrorism and increase in the US, Saudi, and Emirati interference. If fractures disappear, Iraq will enjoy calm, but if the parties continue their face-off and trade accusations, only the Americans and Saudis, who have spent billions to destabilize Iraq, will reap the benefit. 

 

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Iraq Sadr PM Parliament Dissolution SCF Stalemate

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