Chaos Iraq, fights and protests in the first session of the new Parliament. Unknown about the government, but the great puppeteer will be Muqtada al-Sadr

Stadium choirs, tensions, protests, a brawl, a principle of heart attack: is the balance sheet of the inaugural session of Iraqi parliament, which met yesterday for the first time since the elections last October which significantly changed its composition. An eventful session, allegory of the confused conflict that reigns today in the local political arena and which the current interim speaker of the Assembly immediately paid for, Mahmoud Al Mashhadani, 74 years old, taken to hospital.

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The new political forces that have emerged from the elections will have to elect a new speaker – which according to custom must be an exponent of the Sunni minority – and from there, within 30 days, a new President of the Republic who instead is the practice of Kurdish ethnicity. At that point the new head of state has fifteen days to select the new one head of government – traditionally a Shiite Muslim -, usually from the largest parliamentary bloc.

It was the day of entry into Majles of new parliamentary forces, expressions of the protest movement against the named establishment Tishreen (October) like the party Imtity (Extension). Founded by Alaa al Rikabi, Imtidad won 9 seats out of a total of 329, seeing its representatives sit in the same room as the politicians who had been severely contested by them in the last two years.

Politico-military movements in particular had been targeted Iranian thread – responsible for part of the repression of the protests themselves – which, not surprisingly, lost two thirds of their seats in the last election. A result that, despite the evocation of election fraud by the same block, it was confirmed by the Supreme Court and that it sees therefore Fatah – driven by Hadi al Amiri – heavily downsized, with just 17 seats. The expanded coalition in the “Shiite Coordination Structure”, which includes Asaib ahl al Haq from Qais Al Khazali, Ataa, a party linked to the Popular Mobilization Militias, led by Falih al Fayyadh, and the party of the former premier Nuri Al Maliki, should not reach 60 seats.

If the coalition of openly pro-Iranian Shiite forces is the great defeat, the grouping led by Moqtada Al Sadr he is undoubtedly the winner, as well as the holder of the most consistent front ever, having obtained 74 seats. It is therefore precisely the cleric, politician and former Shiite military leader, son and grandson of two of the most important ayatollahs in the region, the real potential arbiter of the future Iraqi executive. But not necessarily his boss: because in Iraq, today, understanding who will lead the government is no less important than understanding who will be in the opposition.

Not too dissimilar to the Lebanon, even in Iraq there is a kind of “Confessional consociation” according to which shares of power are divided along ethno-confessional lines. A system conceived to dampen inter-sectarian tensions, guaranteeing equal representation, but which has often produced immobility, instability and especially corruption. If in Lebanon we are talking about Taifi’ya, in Iraq the sectarian quota system is there Muhassasa, and both were severely contested during protests that began in October 2019 in both countries.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, which had also determined the demographic rebalancing in favor of the Shiite component, the Iraqi political forces have further sublimated this fragmentation, ending up also dividing the ministries according to the seats obtained in parliament.

Thus, in Iraq there have been governments theoretically of “wide agreements”, from “National unity”. In practice, orphaned executives of any form of real opposition charged with monitoring the work of the government – since almost all of them had a stake – and a consequent conservation, by local politicians, of unassailable position income. A perverse system, in which political forces participate in the same cabinet and at the same time compete against each other on the level of propaganda and intra-confessional representation, in a permanent election campaign, albeit at low intensity.

The appearance of the Islamic state in 2014 then saw the rise of pro-Iranian paramilitary groups, protagonists in the defeat of the men of al-Baghdadi, and from that moment in a position to claim or even impose increasing shares of power, closely linked to the influence of Teheran in Iraq, one of the main elements of popular discontent in recent months. An aspect that Moqtada al Sadr has grasped for some time, moving away sharply and at the same time cautiously from the Islamic Republic, of which he has long been a solid ally, and placing himself at the head of the main parliamentary block, with a markedly anti-sectarian posture.

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Perhaps also for this reason the possibility of giving life to another enlarged government with “programmed instability” seems to be less: according to what has been revealed by Middle East Eye, last week Moqtada al Sadr would have jointly met the leaders of the main Iranian groups, among which there is not always good blood. In particular between Hadi al Amiri – the most pragmatic, as well as the longest-lived among the allies of Iran – and Qais Al Khazali, restless leader of the Asa’ib ahl al Haq.

According to sources close to him, Moqtada al Sadr is in full swing “divide and rule” intra-Shiite: an attempt to definitively break up the pro-Iranian bloc, offering each of its leaders options to enter a new government majority, abandoning their own pro-Iranian front. An attempt that is, moreover, a mirror image of that of the pro-Iranian leaders themselves, who have not entirely lost hope of bringing Al Sadr himself under their umbrella.

However, there is also the counterintuitive option, which could be followed precisely in the light of what has been said about the Iraqi political system. Moqtada al Sadr, while leading the largest block, could choose to go back to the opposition, ensuring the role of unavoidable scales (able to block government activity at will) and forcing other actors – already under the crosshairs of civil society – to govern a country without actually having control over it.

“Sadr is trying to dismantle the Shia coordination structure, just as the latter tries to bring him back under his wing. The pro-Iranian Shiite forces fear the possibility of Moqtada al Sadr forming a government without them, but at the same time they fear that he will lead the opposition, ”commented a Shiite political leader. “Sadr in the opposition means that the next government will be unstable in any case, and could fall in the first few months.” To complete an enigmatic picture, there are three unexpected silences: that of United States and Iran, that is, the two countries with the greatest influence on Iraq, and that of the country’s most important ayatollah, Ali Al Sistani. A sign that, for now, the game can remain in Parliament.

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