Government formation in Iraq seems vulnerable


Developments since the election results were announced in Iraq in May have seriously complicated the political scenario, with government formation still a distant prospect. The electoral triumph of the Sadrist- Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) alliance, which had won the most votes, seems to be breaking up as Muqtada al-Sadr has entered into an alliance with pro-Iran Badr Brigades militia commander Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Fatih bloc. This coming together of two Shia blocs that had till recently been far apart suggests that Iraq’s politics could continue to be defined by sectarian considerations and that Iran’s influence will remain undiluted.

Al-Sadr stressed nationalist considerations as motivating his new alliance and called others to join. The ICP put on a brave face: ICP Secretary Raid Fahmi told broadcaster Al Iraqiya that an al-Sadr-Amiri merger “does not come as a surprise” and welcomed the inclusion of Iran’s strongest militant outfit in the new government. Fahmi advised observers to look beyond the “shape, composition and seat allocations of the new government,” which he promised would bring forward “a political reform programme,” and to focus on “the foundations that the government is built on” as what counts.

Iraqi commentator Ahmad Mahmoud said the militia alliance is a reassertion of the status quo of an Iran-controlled Baghdad-seated government. Ali Khedery, a former adviser to US ambassadors to Baghdad, described on Twitter this outcome as “another strategic victory for Iran’s [Qassem] Soleimani” — commander of al-Quds Force, the overseas wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. His prediction is that “[America’s] troops will soon be evicted, our embassy crippled. Iran is consolidating its grip across its crescent.”

To further complicate matters and delay government formation, Iraq’s Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a manual recount of May 12 parliamentary elections that had resulted in a shock victory for Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. The court found on 21 June that the decision by parliament to order a manual recount in response to allegations of electoral fraud does not violate the constitution.

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