On October 10, Iraqis head to the polls in their country’s sixth election since regime change in 2003. Despite the promises of democracy, many Iraqis have become disillusioned with their political system, which deprives them of basic services and fundamental standards of living.
Many disillusioned Iraqis tried to bring about change through protests in October 2019. They believed their voice could be heard louder through mass demonstrations, instead of elections that only reinforced their corrupt political system.
Their demands were to put an end to the political elite’s institutionalized corruption, and many asked for a change in government through early elections in a safe and fair atmosphere.… Seguir leyendo »
For many Western and Iraqi policymakers, parliamentary elections are essential to Iraq’s fledgling but critical transition to democracy. But in Iraq’s first free election in 2005, turnout was almost 80 per cent. Since then, the figure has declined.
In the most recent elections in 2018, the official turnout was 44 per cent of registered voters, though most observers and even some officials acknowledge it was probably much lower, possibly less than 30 per cent. Iraqis do not feel that elections represent a channel for their voices or an instrument for change.
To express their despair, protesters in October 2019 began sitting in city squares in Baghdad and in the south.… Seguir leyendo »
For many Iraqis, it has been a summer of tragedy. Last week, a fire tore through the covid-19 isolation ward at a hospital in the southern city of Nasiriya, killing 60 people. Months earlier, a similar fire in a Baghdad hospital intensive care unit killed 82 covid patients.
The summer has also featured temperatures rising above 120 degrees at a time when the government is failing to provide the electricity needed for people to cope. These hospital fires and electricity cuts have prompted angry protests — and many Iraqis see government corruption and mismanagement as the root of their suffering.
This summer will be followed by an election, Iraq’s sixth since the U.S.-led… Seguir leyendo »
As Iraq seeks to manage its worst fiscal crisis in almost three decades, tensions between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are once again on the rise. Not for the first time, the dispute is over Baghdad’s conditions for the transfer of budget funds to the KRG in Erbil.
At its heart, the battle is constitutional. Ever since Saddam Hussein’s regime was ousted in 2003, there has been disagreement over how political power should be shared. On finances, hydrocarbons, defence, and a number of other issues, both Baghdad and Erbil has claimed competent authority at the expense of the other.… Seguir leyendo »
On April 9, Iraqi President Barham Salih gathered the Shia, Kurdish and Sunni political blocs at the presidential palace to task head of intelligence Mustafa al-Kadhimi with forming a government.
Kadhimi is the third prime minister-designate assigned since Prime Minister Adil abd al-Mehdi resigned in November, in the wake of mass protests against government corruption and the country’s ethno-sectarian based political system.
Kadhimi’s two predecessors, Muhammad Tawfiq Allawi and Adnan al-Zurfi, both failed to form a government. This third attempt came as Iraq struggles with repeated crises since October 2019, when the government began responding with deadly force to large-scale mass protests, killing more than 600 and injuring tens of thousands.… Seguir leyendo »
Historically, Iraq lay claim to one of the most abundant water supplies in the Middle East. But the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has reduced by up to 40% since the 1970s, due in part to the actions of neighbouring countries, in particular Turkey, upstream.
Rising temperatures and reduced rainfall due to climate change are also negatively impacting Iraq’s water reserves. Evaporation from dams and reservoirs is estimated to lose the country up to 8 billion cubic metres of water every year.
A threat to peace and stability
Shortages have dried up previously fertile land, increasing poverty in agricultural areas.… Seguir leyendo »
On April 9, Iraqi President Barham Salih gathered the Shia, Kurdish and Sunni political blocs at the presidential palace to task head of intelligence Mustafa al-Kadhimi with forming a new government. Kadhimi is the third prime minister-designate assigned since Prime Minister Adil abd al-Mehdi resigned in November, in the wake of mass protests against government corruption and the country’s ethno-sectarian based political system. Kadhimi’s two predecessors, Muhammad Tawfiq Allawi and Adnan al-Zurfi, both failed to form a government.
This third attempt came as Iraq struggles with repeated crises since October 2019, when the government began responding with deadly force to large-scale mass protests, killing over 600 and injuring tens of thousands.… Seguir leyendo »
Iraq is a country already in turmoil, suffering fallout from the major military escalation between the US and Iran, mass protests calling for an end to the post-2003 political system, and a violent government crackdown killing more than 600 and wounding almost 30,000 - all presided over by a fragmented political elite unable to agree upon a new prime minister following Adil abd al-Mehdi’s resignation back in November.
COVID-19 introduces yet another threat to the fragile political order, as the virus exposes Iraq’s ineffective public health system dismantled through decades of conflict, corruption and poor governance.
Iraqi doctors are making every effort to prepare for the worst-case scenario, but they do so with huge structural challenges.… Seguir leyendo »
Following the US strike on Qassem Solaimani and Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis, populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has violently cracked down on youth-led protests in Iraq.
His paramilitaries and ‘blue hats’ – supposedly created to protect protestors from state and allied parastatal security forces – sought to end the months-long demonstrations by attacking the places where protesters have camped since October. In Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, they successfully captured the famous Turkish restaurant which had become a symbol of Iraq’s ‘October revolution’.
Once the champion of Iraq’s protest movement, Sadr has seemingly changed course and now leads the counter-protests. This reversal has mystified many, from Iraqis who saw Sadr as an ally in their struggle for reform against an impenetrable elite to foreign diplomats who hoped Sadr could help pushback against Iranian influence in Iraq.… Seguir leyendo »
An unexpected bounty for Iran
The assassination of Qassem Soleimani has been an unexpected bounty for the Islamic Republic at a time when Iran was balancing multiple economic, domestic and regional pressures stemming from the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign.
Coming on the heels of anti-Iranian demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon, and following Iran’s own November 2019 protests that resulted in a brutal government crackdown against its own people, the Soleimani killing has helped the Iranian government shift the narrative away from its perceived regional and domestic weaknesses to one of strength.
The massive funeral scenes in multiple Iranian cities displaying unending waves of mourners chanting against the United States has provided the Islamic Republic with a unique opportunity to showcase its mobilizing potential.… Seguir leyendo »
‘This was one the worst weeks in Iraq’s history. I never thought the government was capable of such crimes,’ exclaimed one civil society activist in Baghdad when describing the protests that ripped through Baghdad and other parts of Iraq from 1 October.
While protests have become frequent events in Baghdad over the past few years, this time was different. For the first time in Baghdad, forces seeking to defend the political system opened fire on demonstrators, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. The same forces, a mixture of official security forces and government-aligned paramilitary groups, also attacked independent media outlets and cut off the internet.… Seguir leyendo »
Over the past few summers, as scorching heat meets a growing dissatisfaction with their government’s inability to provide basic services and employment, Iraqis have taken to the streets to protest. These demonstrations have occurred primarily in southern Iraq and in Baghdad, where violence has been relatively contained for several years now. To many Iraqis, protest is the only voice they have left. They view the formal political and electoral process as just reinforcing the same elites who have repeatedly failed them since the U.S. invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Last summer’s protests in Basra, however, altered the dynamics of these public outcries.… Seguir leyendo »
State weakness and protracted conflict continue to plague Iraq and Libya. A breakdown of the unitary state, competition for power and influence, and the absence of a social contract all continue to drive conflict, while allowing a proliferation of local armed groups to flourish.
Yet while such groups in both countries are often viewed solely as security actors, many of them are better considered as ‘hybrid’ networks that also span the political, economic and social spheres. Western policies to mitigate the threats presented by these groups must therefore extend beyond security-based interventions to necessarily inclusive and political approaches focusing on accountability as a route to peace.… Seguir leyendo »
Tensions have again flared between the US and Iran. The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, followed by Tehran’s warnings of resuming its nuclear programme, have revived a crisis that spans several decades.
Within the Trump administration, influential leaders - including National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo - seem to be steering the US into conflict with Iran.
This conflict has never been a direct confrontation, instead mainly featuring in countries across the Middle East. Iraq has been the most cherished prize for both sides. Recently citing an increased threat, the US evacuated all non-essential staff from Iraq.… Seguir leyendo »
Earlier this month, Iraq’s paramilitary group raided the home of and arrested one of its own — a prominent and long-time paramilitary leader, Aws al-Khafaji. The Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) — an umbrella organization of about 50 predominantly Shia paramilitary groups — has initiated a crackdown on groups.
The purging reveals an emerging reality in Iraq: the paramilitary groups that fought together against ISIS are competing against each other for power, legitimacy and resources. In this process, the PMU is further institutionalizing by centralizing power over the disparate groups that fall within its umbrella. This competition has profound implications for stability in post-ISIS Iraq — and for how we should understand its emerging state.… Seguir leyendo »
Earlier this month, Iraq’s paramilitary group raided the home of and arrested one of its own — a prominent and longtime paramilitary leader, Aws al-Khafaji. The Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) — an umbrella organization of about 50 predominantly Shiite paramilitary groups — has initiated a crackdown on groups.
The purging reveals an emerging reality in Iraq: The paramilitary groups that fought together against the Islamic State are competing against each other for power, legitimacy and resources. In this process, the PMU is further institutionalizing by centralizing power and the disparate groups that fall within its umbrella. This competition has profound implications for stability in post-Islamic State Iraq — and for how we should understand its emerging state.… Seguir leyendo »
For the first time in its history, the Iraqi parliament voted freely for the country’s next president, with Barham Salih winning by a landslide vote of 219 to 22 over his competitor last week. In the past, the parliamentary vote served mainly as a rubber stamp.
Though elements of the old backroom politics remain, this vote marks a departure. After last summer’s election shake-up, some two-thirds of the members of parliament are new to the job. A growing protest movement has exposed citizen disillusionment with the political process, increasing pressure on the parliament. My conversations with many of these new MPs show how fragmentation of political blocs is challenging Iraq’s ethno-sectarian power-sharing agreement in place since 2003.… Seguir leyendo »
This year featured key parliamentary elections in Iraq and Lebanon. In both countries, formerly controversial populist figures performed far better than expected and are playing central roles in the scramble to form governments. In Iraq, the Saeroon coalition led by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the notorious former leader of the Mahdi Army militia, won the plurality of seats. In Lebanon, the Samir Geagea-led Lebanese Forces, a former militia traditionally seen as a right-wing Christian party, doubled its number of seats in parliament.
At first glance, the two outliers, Sadr and Geagea, may appear to be diametrical opposites, but their surprising victories reveal an emerging form of populism sweeping the Middle East.… Seguir leyendo »
Iraqis and outside observers alike are still making sense of the surprise results of last weekend’s elections, the country’s first since the violent rise and fall of the Islamic State. In the biggest shock, the populist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s political coalition—a nationalist, non-sectarian alliance between his political movement, secular activists and the Iraqi Communist Party, known as Sairoon—won the most seats in parliament. Trailing just a few seats behind were the pre-election favorite, the Nasr Alliance of incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and the Fateh Alliance led by Hadi al-Ameri, whose list represents a majority of paramilitary groups associated with the mainly Shiite Popular Mobilization Units.… Seguir leyendo »
Iraqis head to the polls on May 12 to vote for their next federal government. This will be the first time they vote since the territorial rise and fall of the Islamic State. It is also the first vote since a widespread protest movement started in 2015, calling for the removal of the current ruling elite and major reforms to the political system governing Iraq since 2003.
This vote, and the subsequent government-formation process, will determine Iraq’s political future. Despite a number of polls, it is impossible to tell who will become the next prime minister. Yet, pre-election maneuverings and strategies offer glimpses into the country’s political trajectory and the prospects of stabilization and rebuilding.… Seguir leyendo »