Iraq could be heading towards another explosion of violence
73 Iraqi members of parliament, for the majority Sadrist bloc, decided to hand in their resignations last week, creating fear of street protests rising and turning violent. The latest events Expose the disaster which is Iraq’s post-war sectarian system that has left the majority of Iraqi’s hopeless.
After 8 months of corruption allegations and political infighting, the Iraqi parliament has failed to form a government and elect its new Prime Minister. Iraq’s 2021 elections had been doomed from the get go, with its lowest voter turnout — 36% of eligible voters — since the new systems creation at the hands of American occupation forces. The election results came as a shock to some, with the party aligned with popular Shia cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, gaining a large portion of seats — 73 as opposed to 54, in 2018 — to become the most powerful party in parliament. The results, dealt a large blow to the Fatah party bloc, which is aligned with the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), that won only 16 seats as opposed to 48 seats in 2018.
The PMU attempted to launch legal complaints, alleging that there had been tampering with the election results, however, these efforts were ineffective. Whilst the seats won in parliament by the Sadrists were clearly higher than those of the PMU-aligned parties, the total votes won by the PMU-aligned Fatah and State of Law parties numbered higher. The PMU-aligned parties won a total of 969,000 votes, whilst the Sadrists won 885,000 votes. So in terms of the popular vote it was the PMU that came out as a victor, except they were unable to secure significant political power as a result of it. Western media then framed the election, which took place last October, as a reflection of waning support for the Iran-aligned Iraqi forces.
Last week, however, the party belonging to Moqtada al-Sadr, decided to call it quits after failing to form a government. The 73 members of parliament for the Sadrist list followed their leader in resigning from the Iraqi parliament, citing corruption as the primary deciding factor for their withdrawal. Critics, however, state that the real reason may have had something to do with Sadrists failure to broker an agreement, to form a government, with other parties and as a result are mounting a play for greater power in Iraq.
With Moqtada al-Sadr now withdrawing from the parliament, this means that the 73 seats his party commanded will likely go to the PMU aligned Fatah party, as well as independents, many of which are pro-PMU. If the country was a stable and functioning one, this would be where we could determine that the PMU will now takeover the Iraqi government and perhaps bring Iraq on a path towards closer coordination with the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, it is unlikely that Sadr has made his move in order to pave the way towards a peaceful configuration of government. What lingers ahead may well be part of a mass power play that will seek to bolster the support of Moqtada al-Sadr.
If Moqtada al-Sadr now chooses to call for his loyalists to take to the streets to protest the corruption inside Iraq, as well as the ineffectiveness of the government, the situation could rapidly turn violent and result in similar scenes as took place back in 2019 during the Baghdad youth protests. Sadr, once an ally of Tehran, seems to have shifted his rhetoric to portray himself as an Iraqi nationalist that opposes both American and Iranian influence in Iraq. Even if the Iraqi parliament forms a government now and elects a Prime Minister, it is very likely that it could suffer significant legitimacy issues. Many believe that corruption in Iraq is so prevalent that even a genuine government would have issues changing the political mess that has been created. Although the last elections did see a gain in representation for Sunnis, Kurds, and minority political parties, this still does not fix the sectarian power imbalance in the country. Meaning that there will continue to be sectarian bloodshed in Iraq, despite more political representation.
If Sadr calls his people to the streets, his loyalists will prove a force to be reckoned with. If there is any foreign influence on the ground, to direct the demonstrations in a particular way, violence will follow. The problem is that even without foreign actors playing a role in any unrest, there are already so many corrupt elitists, militias, and sectarian groups that violence is nearly inevitable. Everyone is looking to protect their own interests and there is little hope of the Iraqi security forces preventing things from getting out of hand.
All of this, of course, comes from the original sin that was the US invasion, followed by occupation, of Iraq. The US regime’s illegal war of aggression not only toppled Saddam Hussein, it completely dismantled Iraq’s government and army. Sectarian war was fueled by the US occupation, and it was their meddling, their weapons, and their ostensible attempt at rebuilding a State that has led to a system built on sectarianism, militias, mob bosses, and a number of groups that receive backing from foreign nations. On a civil society level, the US Government still has considerable power and influence in Iraq, in addition to remaining there with a small military presence. The future of Iraq truly looks dim and it is clear that the Iraqi public are simply sick and tired of living in a failed State where they are clearly not being ruled under a singular governing force.