Iraq.. What does Al-Sadr’s victory in the elections mean for Al-Kazemi?

Free / Special – WashingtonDecember 04, 2021Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on WhatsApp

Al-Kazemi took over as prime minister in Iraq in May 2020

Analysts believe that the victory of the Sadrist movement, led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, in the legislative elections in Iraq, has boosted the chances of the current prime minister, Mustafa Al-Kazemi, in maintaining his position for another four years, during which we may witness a greater decline in Iranian influence in the country.

The Sadrist bloc topped the results of the elections that took place on the tenth of last October, obtaining 73 seats out of the 329 total seats in the House of Representatives.

The “Al-Fateh Alliance”, the main representative of the popular crowd factions in Parliament, after its objection to the preliminary results, claiming fraud, won 17 seats after it held 48 seats in the outgoing parliament.

The political blocs representing the Popular Mobilization Forces, an alliance of Shiite factions loyal to Iran and affiliated with the armed forces, reject the initial results that showed a decline in the number of its seats.

Al-Sadr tirelessly repeats that his current will choose the prime minister, and calls for the formation of a “majority” government represented by the parties that received the highest number of votes, which is rejected by the forces loyal to Tehran and insists on forming a “consensual government” and that the next prime minister be “consensual, and the ministers according to merit. Electoral.

According to an analysis published by the American Heritage Foundation, Al-Sadr’s call to form a “political majority” government in Parliament makes him an important “player” that would contribute to Al-Kazemi, “a friend of the United States”, maintaining his position as prime minister.

The analysis, written by Nicole Robinson, a researcher at the Institute’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy, says that al-Sadr is well known to American decision makers, especially as he led militias against American forces in the early days of the Iraq war.

However, Allison believes that “Al-Sadr has since become more aligned with American goals in Iraq, and is likely to act as a kingmaker by taking advantage of his electoral majority to nominate Al-Kazemi.”

“Al-Kazemi’s fortunes”

Allison summarizes the US goals in Iraq with only two points, namely, countering Iranian influence and “fighting extremist Islamists”, in reference to ISIS.

And the Iraqi political analyst, Ghaleb Al-Daami, believes that “Al-Kazemi’s fortunes are still the strongest, but the negotiations or the results of the agreements between the political forces remain the ones who decide this.”

Al-Dami told Al-Hurra that “the coordinating framework forces do not want a candidate to head the government from within the Sadrist circle, and therefore this may force them to accept any other candidate supported by al-Sadr.”

Al-Daami indicates that “the influential parties within the coordination framework reject Al-Kazemi’s candidacy, but everyone knows that they are influenced by external forces that can ask them to remain silent about Al-Kazemi’s candidacy,” referring to the association of these forces with Iran.

The professor of international relations, Haitham Al-Hiti, agrees that “Al-Kazemi’s chances are very great,” but he does not rule out the occurrence of “last-minute surprises.”

Al-Hiti told Al-Hurra that “Al-Kazemi will be the biggest opportunity for al-Sadr to silence the factions’ objections to the nomination of anyone from within the movement.”

Al-Hiti adds to the “Al-Hurra” website that “Al-Kazemi dealt pragmatically with the assassination attempt that targeted him, and did not announce the party that carried it out,” noting that this would certainly help mitigate objections to his candidacy.

Al-Hiti believes that “the faction’s acceptance of Al-Kazemi will be better for them than accepting a Sadrist person, who may be harsher than Al-Kazemi in dealing with them.”

In a country where Tehran and Washington are vying for influence, regional and international interventions could have the “final say” in choosing the next prime minister.

Last June, Reuters quoted Western diplomats as saying in private, informal interviews that they would rather deal with a government dominated by al-Sadr than with a government dominated by his Iranian-backed Shiite opponents. 

Doug Suleiman, the former US ambassador to Iraq and head of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, told the agency, “We found that Al-Sadr is one of the main brakes on Iranian expansion and the sectarian Shiite political influence in Iraq after the 2018 elections.”

‘The perfect alternative’

Al-Hiti points out that “the West, the United States, the Gulf and most other Arab countries all prefer Al-Kadhimi… Iran also sees it as an appropriate option because it has not taken any actual action to weaken their role on the ground so far.”

Al-Hiti continues, “Al-Kazemi will not be the ideal alternative for change in Iraq. He has succeeded in the media in portraying himself as an alternative and an effective solution to confronting Iranian influence, but he is not.”

He shows that Al-Kazemi is “a good person with good intentions and good behavior, but he is not a leader and can take decisive decisions.”

On the other hand, Al-Daami believes that “it is not easy to find a personality with Al-Kazemi’s specifications in light of the current data and indicators that say that he enjoys unparalleled local, Arab and Western acceptance, and no Iranian rejection, and Turkish support as well.”

A series of events witnessed in Iraq during Al-Kazemi’s rule, which began in May 2020, showed the immunity of armed groups, mainly allied with Iran, from accountability and punishment, according to Reuters.

After the United States in the 2003 war toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime, Shiite parties allied with Iran took control of state institutions and their successive governments.

And in late 2019, huge groups of Iraqis participated in massive protests calling for the removal of this ruling class. Hundreds of protesters were killed when security forces and gunmen opened fire on the demonstrators. The government at that time was forced to resign.

Since then, interim Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi has promised to hold those responsible for killing protesters accountable and to reform election laws, which would weaken the grip of armed groups.

However, after nearly two years, the trials for the killing of demonstrators did not achieve the desired results. The old elite also appears to be consolidating its power, while activists complain that political freedoms are further eroded.

The United Nations says that at least 32 anti-regime activists have died in targeted killings by unidentified armed groups since October 2019. Iraqi officials blame groups allied with Iran behind the scenes, although these groups deny any role.

On the other hand, Reuters says that Al-Kazemi has sought to balance Iraq’s relations with both Tehran and Washington, although he is widely seen as having friendly relations with the United States.

She adds that Al-Kazemi’s first trip abroad was to Iran, but he visited the White House twice and visited both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where his balanced moves reflect efforts to improve Iraqi relations with the Gulf states that compete with Iran for influence across the Middle East.

Al-Kazemi also sought to calm the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In August, he hosted a meeting in Baghdad that included officials from both sides.


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