Iraq is on the verge of facing an Iranian retaliatory wave carried out by brutal militias, while the international community remains unable to protect a defenseless people who have lost faith in democracy. And history will repeat itself one more time. Writes Dalia Al-Aqidi
After a week of anticipation, threats, arguments, and accusations between the competing political parties in Iraq’s snap parliamentary election on Oct. 10, the country’s electoral commission ended the social media speculation by declaring the final results.
The Sadrist Movement, led by the populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, topped the poll with 73 of the parliament’s 329 seats. The Progress Party led by parliamentary Speaker Mohamed Al-Halbousi was in second place with 37 seats, followed by former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition on 35.
At first glance that was a creditable result for Al-Maliki, a gain of 10 seats from the last election in 2014, and he might have hoped for a return to office with the support of the usually powerful Iran-linked Fatah Alliance.
However, there are two problems with that. First, Al-Maliki’s coalition is still nowhere near the 92 seats it secured in the 2014 parliamentary elections.
And second, the Fatah Alliance, with candidates taken mainly from the Iran-backed Hashd Al-Shaabi armed factions, performed abysmally in last week’s poll; comprehensively rejected by Iraqi voters, their number of parliamentary seats plunged from 48 to 14.
Predictably, the Tehran-allied political forces rejected the election results, which they described as questionable. “We declare our complete rejection of these results … which will negatively affect the democratic path and social harmony in the country,” their statement read.
These are the true colors of Iran-backed political parties with armed factions on the ground, for whom “democracy” is no more than an election slogan deployed on the assumption that the outcome will be in their favor. Their clear message to Sadr is that if democracy does not serve their purposes, then their Iranian-funded weapons will, and that no government will be formed without their participation. Behind closed doors they will continue to put maximum pressure on Sadr to prevent him from establishing the government of his choice, and instead form an alliance similar to the one led by Adil Abdul-Mahdi from 2018 to 2020.
Either through their votes or through their refusal to vote, most Iraqis rejected Iranian influence in their country, which makes Tehran the biggest loser of the 2021 Iraqi election, but that does not increase US leverage. Sadr is opposed to all foreign involvement in Iraq, whether from Tehran or Washington, and he wants the US to begin a serious dialogue about its military presence on Iraqi soil. “We are neither easterners nor westerners. We Iraqis want to live in peace, and whoever opposes that will face an appropriate response,” he said after the election.
With Sadr as the power broker, a man known for his fluctuating whims, choices and allies, the election result delays the construction of an institutional state in Iraq that respects international agreements and human rights. The country’s future is no brighter than it was before Oct. 10. It is on the verge of facing an Iranian retaliatory wave carried out by brutal militias, while the international community remains unable to protect a defenseless people who have lost faith in democracy. And history will repeat itself one more time.
Dalia Al-Aqidi is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy.
This article is republished from Arab News