Chaos and violence threaten Iraq due to political stalemate
The leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada Al-Sadr, is apparently adamant about drawing a new political road map in Iraq, even if doing so requires him to rely on his wide popular base by directing his supporters who are sitting in and around the Iraqi parliament within the Green Zone.
The scenes conveyed by the media of the Sadr supporters as they were dancing in and roaming the halls of parliament showed the fragility of the political and security situation, as well as the fragility of a government that is unable to control security and enforce the rule of law. This is despite the efforts of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who has made serious efforts to limit the interventions of armed militias in government and to extend the authority of the state, which faces a very difficult test.
These demonstrations likely benefit two parties directly: The Sadrist movement and Al-Kadhimi.
The Sadrists have proved their undeniable popular power and that any attempt to form a new government that does not have their backing, or in which they do not participate, cannot succeed.
Al-Kadhimi is, to date, still an authority and a personality positioned in the center, seeking to manage a balance between the conflicting political currents by playing the role of arbitrator. This may increase his chances of obtaining a new mandate, especially as he has become a regionally respected figure and is backed by several influential Middle Eastern and Gulf countries, while leading dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran and working to consolidate Arab-Iraqi relations and reduce tensions in the region.
Al-Kadhimi has called on all parties to avoid any mutual accusations, indicating that the political forces should assume their national responsibilities and sit at the table of national dialogue. In a speech, he urged the Sadrist demonstrators to cooperate with the security forces and respect the state institutions, while calling on the security forces to defend public and private property and official institutions.
This message was positively received by the head of the Iraqi Victory Alliance, Haider Abadi, who tweeted that the PM’s statement “meets with our initiative and our invitations to dialogue in order to agree on a road map for the resolution of the current crisis.” He also appealed to all parties “to initiate serious and honest dialogues serving both the people and the state.”
Despite the flexibility shown by some Iraqi leaders in facing the crisis — including the head of the Fatah Alliance, Hadi Al-Amiri — Al-Sadr went further in his speech, stating his reservations toward negotiating with the Coordination Framework, saying: “The dialogue with them, as per our previous experiences, has brought nothing to the nation but corruption and dependency.” He pointed out that “there is no benefit to be expected in this dialogue, especially after the people expressed their free word,” demanding a “peaceful and democratic revolutionary process and early elections after dissolving the current parliament.”
Despite the constitutional difficulties, early elections are a step that many forces, which were negatively affected by the last poll’s results, would be willing to accept. But others, such as the State of Law Coalition, have reservations, reaching the extent of rejection, with its leader the former Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki commenting on Twitter: “Serious dialogue, which we hope will resolve differences and restore things to their rightful place, begin by a return to the constitution and by respecting the constitutional institutions.”
However, other Iraqi leaders announced their support for new elections. Al-Amiri issued a statement saying that his alliance supports the holding of early elections. He noted that the previous vote was marred by many suspicions and objections. The process needs “a comprehensive national dialogue in order to determine the elections’ date, mechanisms and requirements, in addition to providing an appropriate environment to hold honest, fair and transparent elections that would restore citizens’ confidence in the political process,” Al-Amiri added.
Abadi also welcomed Al-Sadr’s speech in which he called for new elections. The Victory Coalition leader said: “I salute his endeavors, as well as the efforts exerted by all our brothers to prevent bloodshed and achieve reform. I call on everyone to join hands to serve the people, reform the regime and strengthen the constitutional state through a sound and peaceful democratic process.”
The support Al-Sadr has received from such prominent political figures is amplified by popular support, as well as Al-Kadhimi’s desire to limit the authority of pro-Iranian armed militias. All of these factors may be in Al-Sadr’s favor, but it is a dangerous adventure that could explode at any time and lead to bloody confrontations between two sides, each having its own weapons, funding and mass support.
Al-Sadr’s desire for early elections is a dangerous adventure that could explode at any time.
Al-Sadr is seeking to confront the chaos stirred up by Al-Maliki with counter-chaos, to enshrine the equation of power struggle and brinkmanship.
The scene of demonstrators occupying parliament is chaotic and illegal. All parties in Iraq violate the law and resort to popular power, the use of arms or the power of playing with organizational regulations in order to monopolize the government. Unless Iraq’s political leaders emerge from the cycle of power struggle, respect the rule of law and recognize clear constitutional mechanisms, the country will be threatened by further chaos and violence. Chaos and violence are strongly rejected by the Iraqi people and do not serve the interests of the Gulf countries that want a strong and stable system in Iraq that is capable of enforcing security and law.
- Hassan Al-Mustafa is a Saudi writer and researcher interested in Islamic movements, the development of religious discourse and the relationship between the Gulf Cooperation Council states and Iran. Twitter: @Halmustafa