Al-Sadr’s deal with Iran proxies proves Iraqi elections were a farce

Al-Sadr’s actions prove that the political process has gone beyond the realm of the farcical to the dangerously dysfunctional.
Sunday 01/07/2018
Political posturing. Iraqi Shia cleric and leader Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, on June 23. (AFP)
Political posturing. Iraqi Shia cleric and leader Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, on June 23. (AFP)

While casual observers of Iraq were filled with hope that May’s elections would lead to change and usher in a new era of the curtailment of foreign meddling — particularly Iranian — those hopes have been dashed a little more than a month later.

The winner of the elections, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his alliance of secularists and communists, campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and the promise that he was anti-Iranian. Al-Sadr has instead declared his intention to form a governing coalition with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Victory Alliance bloc, which came in third in the vote, and the staunchly pro-Tehran Conquest Alliance list headed by long-time Iranian stooge Hadi al-Amiri.

So much for sticking to campaign promises.

As I wrote last June, and despite the excited buzzing from the mainstream media that attempted to portray al-Sadr as a unifying figure in Iraqi politics, the Shia cleric is a pragmatist and not a nationalist. Al-Sadr was keenly aware that the Iraqi people — whether Sunni, Shia or any other demographic — were sick and tired of foreign meddling in their country’s affairs, particularly from neighbouring Iran, which has become a bigger shot-caller in Iraq than Baghdad.

Feeding off this mass discontent, al-Sadr positioned himself as an anti-Iran political force, promising to draw Iraq out of Tehran’s sphere of influence. The cleric did this despite Tehran’s long-term support for him and his various Shia jihadist militias that wreaked havoc across central and southern Iraq, perpetrating some of the worst sectarian atrocities in modern Iraqi history.

Due to Iran’s belief that al-Sadr did not have the political weight required for its machinations, Tehran gave him the cold shoulder and favoured his rivals, such as former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and militant jihadist leaders such as Amiri.

Al-Sadr capitalised on Iraqis’ natural anti-Iran sentiments, wide-scale disillusionment with the political process and a catastrophically low voter turnout of 44% to rebrand himself as the Iraqi version of Barack Obama, a change candidate armed with religion and guns.

His success allowed him to show his usefulness to Tehran’s mullahs once more. Considering the United States has walked away from the woefully inadequate nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration, Iran was getting jittery about losing influence in the linchpin to its regional success — Iraq.

In comes al-Sadr, pragmatically and shamefully betraying the few Iraqis who did vote, by aligning himself with Amiri, whose Badr Organisation is all but certain to maintain its grip of power on the Interior Ministry and all the police and intelligence forces that come with it.

Al-Sadr showed the Iranians that he was far from spent as a resource to them by winning an election that their other proxies ensured was boycotted by more than 55% of the electorate due to rampant corruption, incessant violence and the industrialised violation of human rights and the dignity of the Iraqi people over the past 15 years.

Al-Sadr’s actions prove that the Iraqis who boycotted the vote were right to do so and that the political process has gone beyond the realm of the farcical to the dangerously dysfunctional, allowing for the continued rape of Iraq’s human and natural resources and its continued subordination to the will of Iranian interlopers.

This shameful turn of events may have sealed the fate of Iraq’s “democracy.” Voters know that their vote means nothing because their political elite will curse each other before every election, only to kiss and make up afterwards so they may all profit at the expense of the normal Iraqi citizen.