The Sociopolitical Crisis of Iraq

Yossi Schwartz, ISL the RCIT section in Israel/Occupied Palestine, 2.9.2022


In Iraq, following its occupation and its destruction by the Western imperialists the masses began in October 2019 to take to the streets and called for the overhaul of the country’s political and corrupt ruling elite. These days the Prime Minister is Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. Kadhimi who became director of Iraq’s National Intelligence Service in 2016, and was appointed by the president Barham Salih as Prime Minister of Iraq in May 2020 in an attempt of the local ruling class to control the angry masses. He left Iraq in 1985 to go to Iran, before moving to Germany and the United Kingdom, which he later became a citizen of. After the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, al-Kadhimi returned to Iraq and co-founded the Iraqi Media Network, for the purpose of documenting the crimes under Hussein’s Baath regime. In simple words he was a servant of American imperialism. After he became Prime Minister, he promised elections that took place in October last year.

On August 29 this year, the very influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr 58 years old, the leader of Sadrist Movement and the leader of the armed militias “Peace Companies” wrote in his Twitter that he would retire from politics.

The reason for his announcement was that in the parliamentary elections in October 2021, al-Sadr, known for his opposition to American imperialism and to the influence of Iran in Iraq, won the largest number of seats. He allied with two other major winners of the election: the Sunni “Sovereignty Alliance” and the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

He faced the opposition of the “Coordination Framework”, a broader amalgamation of mainly pro-Iranian Shia parties that includes influential Shia political figures. This bloc says that to form a government he needs to enjoy a two-thirds majority, and not just a simple majority to rule. While this block didn’t win enough seats to form a government, it had enough seats in parliament to block the Sadrists from as they did not have the support of two-thirds of the legislature. In February 2022, the Iraqi Supreme Court under Iranian influence, interpreted the Iraqi constitution as if to form a government it requires a two-thirds majority and the court ruling is a decree.

Were he a revolutionary socialist, with such a strong base of the popular masses, he would organize in this situation a revolution. Instead in June 2022 al-Sadr called his 73 lawmakers to resign from the parliament. As a result, the Coordination Framework, which only a few months ago blocked government formation, now without the al Sadar’s lawmakers has enough seats to rule.

In this situation he mobilized his supporters in the streets of Baghdad. against the Coordination Framework’s efforts to form a government. The Sadrists occupied key government institutions, including the parliament. They began calling for a dissolution of the parliament and for new elections to the same parliament that cannot resolve the political crisis of Iraq.

The mobilization of the masses in the streets creates a form of dual power. The Sadrists on one side and the Coordination Framework on the other.

The Coordination Framework and the army used weapons and at least 30 people supporters of al Sadr were killed and 700 were injured. Once again instead of taking power al Sadr called his supporters on Tuesday to withdraw from the fortified Green Zone – where the government buildings and foreign embassies are located.

“Sadr has demonstrated that he can mobilize and demobilize with a word,” said Iraqi analyst Fanar Haddad. “He can click his fingers and threaten the entire edifice. Then, he can click his fingers and save the entire edifice.” [1] Yet instead he stated that he resigns from politics at least for now. Al-Sadr has announced his withdrawal from politics at least seven times since 2013. This time he announced he resigned from politics because he felt his opponents had used ugly tactics – going to Grand Ayatollah Kadhim al-Haeri a cleric and an historical ally of Sadr and asking him to denounce Sadr which he did and called for support for Iran’s Khamenei, rather than the Shia spiritual center in Najaf. Al-Sadr considered the move a blow to his legitimacy and credentials, since Haeri had provided him with the legitimacy he lacked as a religious authority without scholarly credentials to be an ayatollah.

The shooting stopped for now in Baghdad but the political crisis that may lead to a new round of the Arab revolution has remained. In the next few days, we will get answers to the development of the struggle against the cost of living which is skyrocketing and to the unemployment that remains high. What happens to the Sadrist Movement now – and will their leader be back in politics again? Will a government be formed? Who will solve the economic crisis in Iraq? And what role will Iran play?

Meanwhile in Baghdad the shooting stopped, this is not the case in Basra where four people were killed in overnight clashes between the Sadrists and the pro-Iranian militias two on each side and the military clashes may return to Baghdad. In such clashes the interest of the international working class is to support the Sadrists without giving political support to Muqtada al-Sadr.