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Iraq: Moqtada Sadr in the lead, Iran tries to rally against him

Ⓒ AFP – AHMAD AL-RUBAYE – | A poster depicting Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr (L) and Shiite cleric Mohammed Baqer al-Sadr in Sadr City on May 14, 2018

Political wrangling continues Wednesday in Iraq, where neighboring Iran is trying to strengthen its influence by limiting the future role of Moqtada Sadr, the winner of the legislative elections that has recently moved closer to Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s great enemy.

Even with his unprecedented alliance between Shiite clerics and the communists (The March for Reform), Moqtada Sadr is far from being sure of governing Iraq for the next four years.

“Mathematically, legally and constitutionally, it is possible” to form a coalition that will govern without him, says Fanar Haddad, an expert on Iraq at the University of Singapore. Even if, he concedes, “it’s politically difficult”.

Yet this is the plan on which Iran has sent to Baghdad the influential general Ghassem Sulaimani, who regularly intervenes in Iraqi political and military affairs but always in the greatest secrecy.

Ⓒ AFP – AHMAD AL-RUBAYE – | Iraqi wields portrait of Shiite nationalist leader Moqtada Sadr, one of the winners of the week-end elections in Iraq, May 14, 2018 in Baghdad

Since Monday, he meets the different political forces, told AFP several officials. In front of them, he vetoed any alliance with Moqtada Sadr, from a line of religious dignitaries, respected opponents, who regularly provokes Iran by advocating a fistful defense of the political independence of Iraq.

The last bravado of the former turbulent militia leader who became the herald of anti-corruption was his visit to Iran’s main rival, Sunni Saudi Arabia.

– Government of consensus? –

On Monday evening, General Sulayman asked the conservative Shiite parties to gather small formations to form a parliamentary bloc broad enough to obtain the post of Prime Minister, said a participant in these meetings at AFP.

The leader of an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards gathered outgoing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki and Hadi al-Ameri, head of the Alliance of the Conquest list. , elders of Hashd al-Shaabi, deputy army of the Islamic State group (IS), close to Iran.

He also banned any alliance with the Hikma movement of Shiite Ammar al-Hakim, Sunni Vice President Osama al-Noujaïfi and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barzani.

And the message seems to have been heard. Maliki’s spokesman Hicham al-Rukabi told AFP that the former prime minister was in talks “with important forces, including the Alliance of the Conquest, Sunni, Shiite parties. and Kurds “.

Ⓒ AFP – Haidar HAMDANI – | Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, populist and nationalist candidate, just after voting for the Iraqi elections on May 12, 2018

Moqtada Sadr, who has reached out to many forces, has already ruled out an alliance with the elders of Hachd and Maliki.

In the face of this stance, “Iran will lobby to ensure that these two forces are at the negotiating table,” says Haddad, and this could result in “a new consensus government including all parties and without formal opposition to Parliament “.

– “Apothecary Blend” –

This format has always prevailed since the first multi-party elections of 2005 in a country where, to prevent any return to dictatorship after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the complex political system has been calibrated to subdivide Parliament.

Each parliamentary vote is followed by long negotiations to form a majority government and in 2010, the list of layman Iyad Allawi, hated by Tehran, the top, was removed by the game of alliances.

Moqtada Sadr has already rejected in a new message on Twitter such a consensus government that he called a “mixture of apothecary”, advocating rather a “government of technocrats”.

The secular daily al-Mada, on Wednesday quoted “Moqtada Sadr’s relatives” as saying that the influential Shiite leader did not make the appointment of the prime minister a sine qua non, but that he meant “to be the kingmaker “.

Because he knows that unlike the outgoing Abadi, named after a tacit agreement between the two powers operating in Iraq, the United States and Iran, the future contours of the government are harder to draw.

Washington and Tehran are at loggerheads because of the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

And the personality and the course of Moqtada Sadr pose a problem for both because if it gives a hard time to Iran, the Americans remember his powerful militia, with which they had crossed the iron in the wake of the 2003 invasion.

Washington, however, said it respected the outcome of the elections in Iraq.

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