POLITICS: Infographic on the chaos of the Iraqi government

August 2, 2022 – Power struggles between Iraqi Shia nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the Iranian-backed coordination cadre mean the nation has gone nearly ten months without a government.

Sadr is a populist with a fiercely loyal base of support and a record of radical action. He fought US forces after the 2003 invasion and opposed any foreign interference, especially from Iran. Sadr commanded a powerful militia, the Mehdi Army, but disbanded it in 2008 after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent Iraqi troops to drive it out of the southern city of Basra. Its successor, the Peace Brigades, retains thousands of armed fighters.

Among rival Shia Muslim groups affiliated with heavily armed militias, the Coordination Framework – led by Maliki, which Tehran backed for its opposition to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s – is Sadr’s fiercest opponent.

Over the past week, Sadr supporters have stormed the Iraqi parliament after Maliki named a pro-Iran politician as Iraq’s new leader. The choice of Mohammed al-Sudani as prime minister, a former minister in al-Maliki’s government, is opposed by Sadr, who sees him as an Iran-backed stooge of its bitter enemy, Maliki.

Sadr has vowed peaceful political action, but his support by the Peace Brigades is stoking fears of armed clashes if the standoff escalates.

Sadr exploited anger over Sudani’s appointment and rising religious zeal ahead of the Muslim holiday of Ashura, calling on his supporters in the southern and central provinces to take to the streets.

Ashura marks the murder of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein, and Shias will turn out in their thousands to commemorate the August 7-8 holiday. Meanwhile, outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi continues to play an interim role.

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