Iraq has never known peace since the invasion by the United States, fifteen years ago, and as a result the electorate has lost faith in the different political institutions which followed. In any case, those citizens who did take part in the elections of 12 May chose anti-US electoral lists, thereby sanctioning those of the Prime Minister, who didn’t really deserve it. Will the United States be able to sustain the disorder? Or will they be obliged to actually leave?
- Iraqi nationalist leader, Moqtada al-Sadr
General elections were held in Iraq on 12 May. They were intended to consecrate Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s « Victory Alliance », in other words the sharing of the country between the United States and Iran.
However, that is not what happened. In fact, the two winning coalitions were the « Alliance towards Reforms » and the « Victory Alliance » - two anti-US formations.
Perhaps the Iraqis had been influenced by the announcement, broadcast on the very day of the vote, that the US was pulling out of the nuclear agreement with Iran (JCPoA). Maybe. In any case, only a third of the voters turned up at the polling stations, and they voted massively against the United States.
We should note that the non-aggression agreement between the US and Iran , which has been questioned by Donald Trump, is applicable not only in Iraq, but also in Lebanon. This fact explains the lack of US reaction to the election of President Michel Aoun in 2016.
After a moment of silence, many Iraqi ex-representatives began shouting fraud, and demanded that the vote be cancelled. Although at first the dispute involved only a few circumscriptions, the movement now demands a new national election.
To everyone’s surprise, Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of the « Alliance towards Reforms » (which won the vote), declared that he had no objection to the idea. Which is to say that, according to him, even if there may have been some incidents of fraud here and there, their only consequence would have been the elimination of one personality or another, and not the invalidation of the whole weight of the result – namely, the surge of anti-US feeling.
The programme of Chiite religious leader Moqtada al-Sadr is simple – the withdrawal of all foreign presence (except diplomatic), whether from the the USA, Turkey or Iran. Without taking into account what might become of the Turkish troops illegally stationed in Bachiqa, and aware of the fact that the Iranians have no need to send troops into Iraq in order to be represented there, this message is addressed in priority to the 100,000 US personnel still present, a fifth of whom are regular soldiers.
The other message of Moqtada al-Sadr – who is supported by the Communist Party – is the end of sectarianism. It appears that Iraqis have assimilated the idea that in the absence of a despotic régime like that of Saddam Hussein, only national union can enable the defence of the country. This is why, before the vote, Moqtada al-Sadr turned to Saudi Arabia and to the other Sunni powers in the Persian Gulf. He describes himself as a nationalist in the sense of original Ba’athism – not as an Iraqi nationalist, but as an Arab nationalist.
It is also the reason why voters did not offer massive support to the Prime Minister’s « Victory Alliance ». By referring to his victory over Daesh, Haider al-Abadi rejected the ex-Ba’athists who had supported the terrorist organisation by default .
The propaganda broadcast by the Bush administration had assimilated Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athists with the Nazis. Washington had qualified the Iraqi Ba’ath Party as a « criminal organisation » and forbade its members from taking part in politics. Fifteen years later, this decision is still the primary cause of the troubles which destabilise the country. To that we must add the sectarian constitution, drawn up by the Israëlo-US Noah Feltman and imposed by the Pentagon, which maintains the fear of the division of the country into three distinct States (Chiites, Sunnis and Kurds). In any case, the time has passed when the CIA could organise civil war in secret and channel anti-US anger into communitarian persecution.
In Iran, the partisans of President Hassan Rohani have decided to interpret the Iraqi vote as a populist uprising against corruption, while the partisans of the Revolutionary Guard are highlighting the unifying character of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Alliance.
But while Iran may be seeking to impose its will on the Iraqis, it may also be rejected by them. Although it is working in secret to unify the opponents of Moqtada al-Sadr, Teheran is saying nothing in public. Clearly, events are evolving in their favour – while it is true that the United States have rejected the nuclear agreement, they may lose their influence over Iraq and also their capacity to act from that country both in Syria and Turkey.
Turkey is also silent - Moqtada al-Sadr needs enormous energy to face up to the United States, and could not expel Turkish troops at the same time, despite the fact that they are far less numerous. The moment has not yet come when Iraq must take position concerning regional questions and the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia.