Iraq is back to square one

Newly appointed Mohammed Allawi is no different from previous candidates whom the people rejected.
Tuesday 11/02/2020
Protesters chant slogans while holding a poster of newly-appointed Prime Minister Mohammed Allawi with Arabic that reads, "Rejected by the people," during a demonstration in Najaf, Iraq, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (AP)
Protesters chant slogans while holding a poster of newly-appointed Prime Minister Mohammed Allawi with Arabic that reads, "Rejected by the people," during a demonstration in Najaf, Iraq, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (AP)

By choosing Mohammed Allawi as prime minister for the transitional period, the parties in control in Iraq have returned to square one and failed the peace test with the popular protests.

Allawi is no different from previous candidates whom the people rejected. He is a product of the same failed political process. He was a party representative in two parliamentary sessions and was a former minister of Communications during an era of peak corruption.

His rejection by the people was expected by the parties that nominated him, starting with Muqtada al-Sadr. Therefore, it was not surprising that al-Sadr ordered his followers to disperse demonstrators and end the protests in Baghdad.

Al-Sadr seems to have taken it upon himself to do what the other parties were not able to do. This was a pledge he had made to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and he will try to execute it at any cost, even spilling blood in the streets

This time, al-Sadr is trying to fill in the shoes of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who once considered himself the absolute master of the political process in Iraq and its godfather. It is not unlikely that the Iraqi people will pay the price of al-Sadr's ambitions when resorting to force will be a kind of gamble.

As an inexperienced man in politics, al-Sadr must have failed to consider the possibility of losing his battle with the popular protests that have not yet lost momentum despite killings, kidnappings and arrests of demonstrators.

As for the parties loyal to Iran, it is in their interest -- indeed it was their wish -- from the beginning of the political process in Iraq that al-Sadr becomes burned in the eyes of the public. The guy was in the middle of the political process since its inception and has been enjoying all the privileges and perks of contributing to it.

He liked to play the role of the honest patriot and place himself in the opposition camp, which was an inconvenience for Iran and its Iraqi allies. The latter did not always only know that al-Sadr’s posturing was not genuine but they did know that it was his strategy to pressure the political process and remove political figures he didn’t like.

Therefore, Allawi’s choice as prime minister must have come as a result of a suspicious deal between al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri to pave the way for the overthrow of figures and bosses whose presence in the public eye had become a heavy burden to the political process, given those people’s link to major corruption cases. At the top of the list of these figures is Maliki whose arrest and trial will soon be announced in an unprecedented move that Allawi will exploit to absorb public anger.

What this means is that, if Allawi is maintained as prime minister, the transition phase is going to witness major and resounding affairs meant to remove certain figures of the regime while leaving the current structure of the regime intact.

The personalities who will be sacrificed have become marginalised; so getting rid of them would not hurt the political process. Once the inner secrets of corruption are exposed, the system will regain a new virginity and gingerly and mysteriously reproduce itself.

This does not mean that street protests will weaken or become discouraged since no possible happy ending beckons on the horizon. Their continuation is very likely especially now that al-Sadr has dropped the mask and revealed his true face, which is one of those of the repressive and corrupt regime.

What makes al-Sadr more dangerous than anyone else is his earnest endeavour to please the velayat-e-faqih in Tehran. The others need not be on their toes all the time because they are the genuine children of the Iranian regime.

This is why al-Sadr might turn out to be the most dangerous of all for the popular uprising because he’s capable of resorting to openly violent repressive methods.

That is what the next stage will reveal, a stage that will be crucial for everyone.