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the winds of change
that blew into the region this year
emanated from Iraq

Khudayer al-Khuzaie,
Dawa Tanzim Party
Vice Presisent of Iraq 10 July 2011



Iraqi Politics

Prime Ministers

Iyad Allawi01 Jun 200403 May 2005 Iraqi National Accord
Ibrahim al-Shiqr al-Jaafari03 May 200520 May 2006State of Law Coalition
Nuri Kamil al-Maliki20 May 200614 Aug 2014State of Law Coalition
Haider Jawad al-Abadi14 Aug 201408 Sep 2018State of Law Coalition
Adel Abdul Mahdi02 Oct 201820 Nov 2022Shia blocs
Mohammad Allawi02 Feb 202002 Mar 2020Shia blocs
Adnan Zurfi17 Feb 202009 Apr 2020
Mustafa al-Kadhimi09 Apr 2020xx xxx 2022

The head of Iraq's National Intelligence Service (NIS), Mustafa al-Kadhimi, was tapped on 09 April 2020 to be prime-minister designate,as the country cycles through potential leaders at a politically unstable time. President Barham Salih appointed al-Kadimi shortly after the previous designated prime minister, Adnan al-Zurfi, resigned after failing to secure enough support to pass a government. Zurfi citied "internal and external reasons" for his decision to withdraw. "My decision not to proceed with my nomination is to preserve Iraq and its greatest interests," he said. Al-Kadhimi became the third leader to be nominated as the prime minister deisgnate in just 10 weeks.

Iraqi President Barham Salih appointed Adnan al-Zurfi on 17 March 2020 as the country's new prime minister-designate in the latest bid to resolve a months-long political crisis. Al-Zurfi had 30 days to form his cabinet which he must then put to a vote of confidence in Iraq's fractious Parliament. The 54-year-old former governor of the holy Shia city of Najaf heads the Nasr parliamentary grouping of former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Al-Zurfi would replace caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who quit in December 2019 following widespread mass demonstrations against a government that protesters see as corrupt, failing to provide them with basic services, and beholden to powerful neighbouring Iran. President Salih has made an unprecedented step chosing Adnan al-Zurfi without the consultation of the political parties in Parliament. He was seen as having pretty close ties with the West and with the US specifically and, as a result of that, many of the political parties in Parliament were likely to reject him.

Political factions had intensely debated names for days, seeking a "non-confrontational" figure to preserve the status quo. Al-Zurfi's appointment came two weeks after former Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Allawi withdrew his candidacy for the post, accusing political parties of obstructing him. Al-Zurfi was a former official of the US-run authorities that took over Iraq after the 2003 US invasion that deposed former ruler Saddam Hussein.

is not to be confused with Mueen Hameed Abdul Al-Madjid Al-Kadhimi, previousl a member of the Baghdad Provincial Council (BPC). Mueen officially assumed duties as the new Provincial Council Chairman after a special session of the council on 19 December 2005 elevated him to that post. Critics said that Mueen's "unnaturally" close relationship with the Iranian regime bordered on treason. David Ignatius wrote in The Washington Post on 09 January 2014 that " ... two points seem clear: First, the Obama administration, in its rush to leave the country, allowed the sectarian Shiite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to undo many of the gains made against al-Qaeda. Second, Iran has waged a brilliant covert-action campaign that turned Maliki and Iraq into virtual clients of Tehran - and in the process alienated Sunnis and pushed them toward extremism." Ignatius quotes "one former U.S. official" as saying "What is tragic is that Iraq's slide toward an Iranian axis and civil war were not only predictable but indeed predicted by Iraq experts within the U.S. government... Iraq's current meltdown and its grave implications on U.S. national security interests were entirely avoidable."

Ignatius wrote "Maliki's new government has played a particularly vengeful sort of politics. The government reneged on promises to pay the Sunni tribal militia that Gen. David Petraeus mobilized in 2007 and 2008 to battle al-Qaeda in Fallujah and other areas of Anbar province. Many Sunnis, fearing that Maliki's Shiite government was simply a tool of Iran, began turning back toward sectarian warfare."

Since Iraqis have been living in an unstable environment for over 25 years, the situation seemed normal.

Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, former Qatari Ambassador to the UN and to the US, said in June 2014 that "Everybody was expecting something big to happen in Iraq when Maliki came back as Iraqi prime minister four years ago. Instead of really opening up Iraq and making it a model for the religions, Maliki became beholden to the Iranians strategic goals in the region, i.e., to dominate the whole Middle East and the Gulf, and he created a sectarian state as a matter of fact, an Iranian state within Iraq because even Shi'ite Arabs suffered under him a lot."

2013 was the deadliest year in Iraq since 2008, according to the United Nations, with some 7,818 civilians and 1,050 members of the security forces killed in unrest. One year after U.S. troops left Iraq, the fragile network of Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds unravelled. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Iraq in late 2012 and early 2013, rallying against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Many of the Sunni protesters accused their Shi'ite prime minister of marginalizing their sect and consolidating power. Rising anti-government protests, mostly by Sunnis, rocked Iraq since December 2012. Many Sunnis were calling for Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down. They also wanted the release of detainees they say are being held without trial -- and the suspension of an anti-terrorism law they say targets Sunnis unfairly. Malikis Shi'ite supporters also took to the streets, in what was becoming escalating sectarian strife.

Women and girls were at times sexually exploited through so-called temporary marriages, a practice more common in Shia than in Sunni traditions, under which a man gives the family of the girl or woman dowry money in exchange for permission to marry her for a specified, limited period. Government officials and international and local NGOs also reported that the traditional practice of fasliya--whereby family members, including women and children, are traded to settle tribal disputes--remained a problem, particularly in southern governorates. In May 2015 an agreement to resolve a dispute between the al-Shawi and al-Garamsha tribes in the Qurna area north of Basrah included the exchange of up to 50 women over a one-year period. Local authorities, however, intervened and compelled the sheikhs of the tribes to forswear fasliya, and by years end the women had not been exchanged.

An active media expressed a variety of views largely reflecting the owners political viewpoints. The media also self-censored to comply with government restrictions against violating public order and because of fear of reprisal, particularly by nongovernmental forces. Media outlets, unable to cover operating costs through advertising revenue, overwhelmingly relied on political funding, which affected their ability to report unbiased news. Political parties strongly influenced, or controlled outright, most of the several hundred daily and weekly print media publications, as well as dozens of radio and television stations.

Since January 2014 the armed conflict displaced more than 3.2 million persons, predominantly in Anbar, Ninewa, and Salah ad Din governorates. An additional one million IDPs from the 2006-08 sectarian conflict remained displaced.

Terrorism and violence left at least 12,282 civilians dead and 23,126 others injured in 2014, making it the deadliest year since the flare-up of sectarian violence in 2006-2007. While civilian fatalities in 2015, including civilian police that the government used in military operations, decreased from 2014, terrorist groups continued to target civilians, police, and security forces. From January 1, 2014, to October 31, 2015, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) recorded at least 55,047 civilian casualties resulting from the conflict, with 18,802 killed and 36,245 wounded. Baghdad was most affected with almost half of the total fatalities.

In the UN mission's estimate, 1,119 Iraqis were killed and 1,561 others wounded in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict across Iraq in March 2016 alone.

Protesters gathered in the streets of Basra on 08 July 2018 after Iran, which provides 1,400 megawatts of electricity to the region, suddenly decreased energy supplies. The electricity cut exacerbated a heat wave, forcing residents to endure sweltering temperatures hovering around 48 degrees Celsius. Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of Najaf, Basra, Maysan, Dhi Qar and Karbala, rallying against rising unemployment, corruption, poor governance and perceived Iranian interference. Smaller protests also erupted in the capital, Baghdad. The scale and ferocity of the protests have seen security forces use live ammunition, tear gas, and water cannon on the crowds, killing at least 14 since 08 July 2018, according to police and medical sources. With the demonstrators continuing to take the unusual step of ramping up their protests against both his government and Iraq's main ally and powerful neighbour, Iran, fears are growing that they could spiral out of control.

These protests were about the poor standard of living many Iraqis face, poverty - people, in essence, challenging the democratic legitimacy of the state. The protesters are expressing deep frustration with the state, regardless of who makes it up. The protests started spontaneously with people demonstrating against poor living conditions, as they have many times in the past. But news of the protests encouraged Iraqis in other Shia-majority provinces to take to the streets or occupy government buildings.

The demonstrators were also emboldened by Iraq's most prominent Shia leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who called on federal and local agencies to "seriously" address the protesters' demands.

Some Iraqi politicians don't believe in democracy but have a popular base, some believe in democracy but have no popular support, while still others only seek governmental power and believe only in their survival in power.

In 2003 the Shia and Kurdish communities largely welcomed the US invasion and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime. By contrast, the Sunni community viewed it as a disaster because it threatened to undo the privileged position its elite had occupied within the regime. Over the years, these attitudes have shifted, as Iran has come to play a significant role in Iraqi domestic politics. Many of the Shia parties have aligned with Tehran and as its confrontation with the US has intensified, they have also increasingly adopted anti-US stances.

The same process, however, has not been replicated among the Shia population. In fact, there have been increasingly anti-Iranian attitudes among Iraq's Shia. According to the Baghdad-based Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies, 86 percent of Iraqi Shia had a favourable view of Iran in 2014, but just 41 percent did in 2019.



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