15 May 2018
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
The slate of candidates supporting Hojatoeslam Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shi'ite religious leader in Iraq, won the most seats over the week-end. This means he will be the man picking the man who will run Iraq. The US-backed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi finished third. This journal has maintained for years that the cleric will become Iraq's version of Ayatollah Khomeini who led the Iranian revolution. This electoral success suggests that day is moving ever closer.
During the US occupation of post-Saddam Iraq, the hojatoeslam was the figure inspiring the Iraqi resistance in the Shi'ite areas of Baghdad and beyond. The Mahdi Army was the result, a paramilitary force that destabilized the situation in Iraq and which forced the US to increase its troop levels in the so-called "surge."
He undertook a change in strategy around 2012, when he opted for a more moderate, non-violent course of action. Undoubtedly, he saw the defeat of ISIS, a Sunni fundamentalist bunch of yahoos, as a vital interest for all Shi'ites, and his Peace Companies were involved in combat as well as guarding Shi'ite shrines. Yet, he has found that an anti-corruption message resonates across Iraq. In March 2016, his followers engaged in a sit-in just outside the government district, the Green Zone, and he himself entered the area to protest. The army general in charge of security not only allowed him to enter but kissed his hand as he did so.
This morning, the Washington Post quoted a western diplomat, who spoke to the paper anonymously, as saying, "He's the only politician with a clear vision for Iraq. Iraq first, eradicate corruption, and a technocratic government."
Kirk Sowell, who publishes the newsletter Inside Iraqi Politics, stated, "Sadr has spent the last three years rebranding himself as a non-Islamist champion of the fight against corruption and sectarian representation. The alliance with the secularists was an important part of that. Amid other groups not voting, it turned out to be key that Sadr was able to expand his coalition while still maintaining his base." His bloc, Sairoon (Moving Forward), includes not just Shi'ites and some Sunnis but ostensibly atheist communists as well.
However, Sairoon didn't secure a majority, and that is where this all gets interesting. The pro-Iranian group led by Hadi al-Ameri came in second, and it seems set to become the official opposition. The Sadr group needs a few move votes to govern, and that gives Prime Minister al-Abadi and his supporters a lifeline as a junior partner.
With ISIS defeated in Iraq, the future of the US troops in country would come into question in any case. Now, it seems the issue will become a priority.
Oddly, the biggest loser may well be Iran. The Iraq First brand weighs heavily against the Persian co-religionists and their ambitions in Iraq. With al-Ameri in opposition, they do not appear to have any levers to pull.
Iraq is on the Shi-ite and Sunni fault line. It is inherently going to face instability. Al Sadr may be trying to find a third way, which probably doesn't exist. How much success he will have is hard to say, but what is certain is that he has become the Kingmaker in Iraq.
© Copyright 2018 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.