The Federal Court Ruling Places Iraq Before Open Scenarios

Position Assessment| This paper addresses the consequences of the political crisis in Iraq, in light of what can be described as the persistence of the crisis parties on their positions and demands, regardless of what will be the decision of the Federal Court regarding the dissolution of the current parliament, holding of new elections, or remaining neutral under the pretext of no competence.

by Dr. Hani Nsera
  • Release Date – Sep 4, 2022

Introduction

The Iraqi crisis remains open, regardless the Iraqi judiciary's ruling, scheduled for September 7, 2022, to dissolve the parliament, or remaining in neutrality under the pretext of no competence. The current appeasement is nothing but a flash of fire beneath the ashes. Despite the calls for mutual calm between the Iraqi parties, as well as the calls by the leaders of the Coordinative Framework to participate in the Husseiniya processions, and the postponement of negotiations until after the day-forty visit is over, several clashes are nonetheless still taking place between supporters of the Sadrist movement and others from the Coordinative Framework factions. The latest of which led to deaths in clashes in Basra province. The Iraqi arena would probably witness more serious and exposed clashes in the Iraqi arena over time.

Meanwhile, al-Sadr sent similar messages through Saleh al-Iraqi (known as al-Sadr's minister). Such messages included condemnations of what he called the "the Framework's sheikh" who might possibly be Kadhim al-Haeri, Qais al-Khazali, or other opponents of al-Sadr, whom he accused -whoever he may be- of committing crimes against Sunnis and Shiites. At the same time, in another message, al-Iraqi threatened Qais al-Khazali and his armed group with killing and aggression.

This indicates that the crisis may explode at any time, kindling the Iraqi arenas again. The scenarios of reaction are open from both sides, in case there was no solution, and in case the option of the Coordinative Framework and the forces loyal to Iran (controlling Iraq for years) may prevail, or when in case the parliament was dissolved, as the Sadrists want. This makes such moment seem to be the moment of flight forward- an escape from the crisis and from the moment of a conflict that can be renewed and occur again.

Iran, al-Haeri, and the Nuclear Deal

The last weeks of August 2022 witnessed a major political crisis in Iraq, in the core of which was the Sadrist movement, which withdrew from parliament and took to the streets after a "Shiite-Shiite" disagreement with the "Coordinative Framework" over the formation of a new government, and objecting to the latter's unilateral formation of the government. Mohammed Shia' al-Sudani, a former minister in the government of Haider al-Abadi, was proposed as prime minister, the matter that was rejected by the Sadrists, who represent the parliamentary majority since the elections of October 21, 2021.

Right from the beginning, Muqtada al-Sadr announced that he has a project to reform the political process. His first step was the government of the National Majority. However, the conditions experienced by Iraq, the squabbles, the Coordinative Framework's movers, and the blocking third prevented altogether achieving such goal, the matter which provoked al-Sadr's anger and fears of a repeating what had already happened with Iyad Allawi in the 2010 elections, where Nouri al-Maliki and his party succeeded in forming the government, despite the former obtained a majority.

However, the crisis took on other dimensions, after the intervention of the religious authority, Kazem al-Haeri- a resident in Iran who is close to it. In his retirement statement, August 29, al-Haeri called for that the leader of the Iranian Revolution, Ali Khamenei, should be his replacement. Al-Haeri also directed personal and violent criticism to Muqtada al-Sadr including his scientific and political competence. Al-Sadr responded, in a statement of retirement after a few hours, stressing that no credits for al-Haeri on him, rather, it is al-Sadr's leadership and the heritage of his father, deeming himself is carrying out his religious duty to promote virtue and prevent vice.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that the positions of Muqtada al-Sadr represent the last barrier in the face of Qom reference and the Iranian regime's dominance over Najaf reference and the Shiite space in Iraq, especially after the departure of the 94-year-old Ayatollah Sistani (born in 1930).

The debate between al-Sadr and al-Haeri is an embodiment of the years-long intellectual and reference dispute between the two references, and between the two men. In his statement, Muqtada al-Sadr stressed on presenting Najaf reference; the oldest and most authentic, in the face of the Qom reference called for by Kazem al-Haeri. Al-Sadr hinted that he was under pressure to retire. Even more; al-Sadr found, in al-Haeri's statement, an announcement of the lifting the reference cover from him. Hence, al-Sadr's hinted to the possibility assassinating him apparently. Al-Haeri's statement was not ideologically or religiously directed only at his followers, insofar as the clash with al-Sadr was widened, and targeted him personally.

In his statement, Moqtada al-Sadr accused al-Haeri of disagreeing with him, saying: "Many people, including Mr. al-Haeri, think that this leadership came by their favor or at their command. No, thanks to my Lord firstly, and foremost from the gifts of the Father Master -sanctified his secret may be- who did not abandon Iraq and its people". Al-Sadr's retirement, therefore, appears to be a preparation for a new phase of direct clash with the Iranian regime and the pro-Iranian militias. It also seems as an open door to further crisis, as his opponents wish, not an end to the same as all Iraqis desire.

Meanwhile, Iran, which is preoccupied with its nuclear agreement draft, in this scene and off-scene, seems to interfere and not interfering, despite its anti-Sadr and pro-Iranian supporters mainstream media rhetoric, which some see as an insistence on the importance of Iran's role in Iraq, revealed to the European Union and Western powers who need Iraqi oil, in light of the Ukrainian crisis. Especially with the arrival of protests to some oil sources in Basra and Maysan provinces during the recent days of clashes. It is expected that such clashes would be escalated between the two parties, highlighting the necessity of Iran's interventionist role in Iraq, or calling for external intervention to settle the crisis in Iraq.

Crisis Flare and the blocking third

When al-Sadr realized that the project of a national majority government was aborted, he began to take escalatory steps, including the entry of his supporters into parliament, the siege of the judiciary, and then the storming of the presidential palace. But the use of weapons, by some of the movement's followers, may have been a major challenge that prompted al-Sadr to pull back move, even calling for tents to be lifted from in front of parliament. The peaceful sit-in was ended on September 1.

The beginning of the events flare up was on Sunday (June 12th) when the deputies of the "Sairoon" bloc, which represents the Sadrist movement, headed by MP Hassan al-Adhara, announced their mass resignations from the parliament which they represent a majority of 73 seats. few hours after Muqtada al-Sadr ordered them to do so, after months of political stalemate. The Sadrist movement was unable to form a government, because the names it proposed for the post of president faced objections from the rival Shiite "Coordinative Framework" coalition, whose membership includes the former prime minister; Nouri al-Maliki.

Instead of resolving the crisis, the Sadrists' resignation officially proceeded, without negotiation and without calmness. Their replacement deputies were sworn in in an extraordinary session, in which 64 substitutes were sworn in, nine of whom were absent, in protest at the lack of support for the "Majority Government" project and the insistence on a "Consensual" government by the Coordinative Framework, causing a political impasse whose features began to become apparent over the months, since the results of the October 2021 elections appeared.

Following the resignation and the naming of the Coordinative Framework of Mohamed Shia al-Sudani, demonstrations were launched by Sadrist's supporters, to storm the Green Zone and parliament in late July 2022.

Thus, the disputes between the two parties developed towards armed confrontations, clearly ravaging after the statement of al-Sadr's retirement from political work on August 29, 2022, in response to Kadhim al-Haeri's issuance of a statement in which he retired from his role as a reference and political work, and sharply criticizing Muqtada al-Sadr for his personality and policy. His conclusion was that he was not qualified to lead the Sadrist movement.

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Immediately after the statement of Muqtada al-Sadr's retirement, his supporters stormed the Green Zone again, the presidential palace, and clashes took place between the Sadrist Movement and their opponents in the capital Baghdad as well as the central and southern provinces, in which rockets, including Katyusha and shoulder-mounted, were used, as did the US embassy SeaRAM system to repel them.

Al-Sadr's supporters attacked all state institutions and clashed with the security services, resulting in about 30 deaths from the ranks of the movement, and more than five hundred wounded and injured, before Sadr came out, on August 31, to call his supporters to withdraw within 60 minutes.

Today, Iraq stands awaiting the rule of the Federal Supreme Court in the case of the dissolution of parliament, postponed several times, despite al-Sadr's 10-day deadline to issue a rule in this case. But the Supreme Court postponed the rule to August 17 and then to August 31, justifying such postponement -this time- to the curfew imposed following clashes in Baghdad's Green Zone.

Despite the repercussions of the Federal Court's rule, it seems that the Sadrist Movement insists on its demands in reforming the entire Iraqi political scene. Saleh al-Iraqi already stated that there is a need to change the Iraqi political scene completely, and to replace its forces, that emerged since 2003, including the Sadrist Movement itself. It can be said that the retirement of Muqtada al-Sadr does not represent a tactical step, by which his followers move forward and backward, which Al-Sadr stressed thereon in his statement regarding his position on reform, the promotion of virtue, the prevention of vice, and empowering Najaf reference in the face of the Qom reference, which al-Haeri insist on.

However, will the dissolution of parliament be the solution, as Muqtada al-Sadr and his supporters called for in their lawsuit to the Federal Supreme Court?

Concerning the call for the dissolution of the parliament, two currents, one of which is supporting while the other is opposing, stand as follows:

The First: The dissolution of the parliament is agreed on by many leaders and forces, most notably the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party Masoud Barzani, who hinted to his approval on early parliamentary elections, after the Iraqi political forces would agree on how to organize them and ensure their integrity, as well as the Sunni leader, Mohammed al-Halbousi, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, who stressed the organization of early elections, but in accordance with the constitution and the law, in a manner that ensures there is a political consensus to hold such elections, without major objections.

The Second: an influential wing of the Coordinative Framework, led by Nouri al-Maliki, which insists on continuing on heading in the same track, which such wing describe as the constitutional track, and that the judiciary does not have the right to dissolve parliament, which was previously stated by the head of the Supreme Judicial Council in Iraq. The Coordinative framework sees that there need to hold a parliament session, and choose a president to the republic and head of government, and then set a date for new elections after forming the government, and the leader of the "State of Law" coalition, Nouri al-Maliki, said that "the demonstrations of the Coordinative Framework sent a message to all political components to respect the constitutional and legal track in Iraq, before taking any steps on the current parliament."

In conclusion, some may see the dissolution of the expected parliament as the best solution to the current crisis, and the most logical and legal, but others are likely to turn to what was previously announced by the head of its Supreme Council to dismiss the issue, for lack of competence and not to dissolve the parliament, in a victory for the coordination framework, which does not exclude the return of the Sadrists to protest and the renewal of clashes.

Dr. Hani Nsera

Writer and Political Expert