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Kadhimi and a Daunting Formula

Kadhimi and a Daunting Formula

Friday, 16 July, 2021 - 10:15

This is not a frantic defense of the man’s positions, as some friends accused me after the tragedy of Nasiriyah Hospital. Nor is it an attempt to justify his mistakes or those of his team or his government, as all of them bear a certain degree of responsibility. However, it is the political class (i.e., the post-2003 regime) that bears the greater responsibility for all that is happening in Iraq and what will unfold in the future on the political, economic, security and service levels.

There is no authority or order in Iraq to hold Kadhimi and his government accountable for the states’ mismanagement of its wealth, despite the fact that all Iraqis have the right to hold them to account for their performance. However, it seems that in Iraq, there is a regime that is above accountability due to ideological, ethnic and kinship reasons. When this political class reached a dead end and could no longer sustain itself, and its options became narrower and it was besieged by the “Octoberites” from behind and the specter of civil war from the front, it sought the help of an external arbiter to rule between them without ruling over them. At this moment, when this arbiter tried to rule, they abandoned it, starting with the developments in Al Buaytha and its fallout.

Prior to April 9, 2019, Iraq was at “distance zero” from the brink of civil war, and what has happened since that date has been a process of deferring armed violence that will be a prelude to civil war. The specter of civil war is becoming more apparent by the day, and with remarkable speed, through political and militia practices and external pressures that undermine the stability of the Iraqi interior. These practices began with the orchestrated acts of sabotage targeting electrical towers and interrupting gas supplies from their sources, to the scarcity of water in Iraq after its neighbors changed the courses of its major rivers and began constructing dams. Interspersed with the developments was the transformation of Iraqi airspace into an open arena for unmanned drones that strike diplomatic and military missions within an external agenda related to faltering negotiations and not, as some claim, to Iraqi sovereignty.

When Mustafa al-Kadhimi accepted the assignment, he did not have a magic wand that he could wave to resolve intractable and chronic crises, and his team did not even have a platform on which to lean from time to time. The miserable reality of the state and its institutions made Kadhimi a prisoner of a daunting formula: On the one hand, he cannot retreat so as to avoid a personal and moral defeat that would end his political life early. On the other hand, his attempts to change the reality in Iraq have been confronted with stonewalling by forces that would not allow him or anyone else to undermine their interests, influence, wealth and connections. Since the session that granted confidence to his government, which was an indication of the nature of the relationship between him and these political forces, and until today, Iraq has been quickly slipping into the abyss.

It is credited to Kadhimi that he toured regional and international capitals and sought to arrive at an understanding among all these actors for the sake of Iraq and for it not to remain an arena for settling regional and international scores, and to seize a period of political stability to bring in investments. However, the reality was shockingly different. In Iraq, armed political fiefdoms and their economic bureaus could not give guarantees to investors, and it became impossible to persuade private or public sector entities to enter into the Iraqi market, as everyone knows that the power of political parties and their conditions are above the authority of the state.

Therefore, before calling for Kadhimi to be held accountable for his failure to fulfill his promises and settlements, there is a need for accountability for 18 years of failures. Naturally, the question is then: Did Kadhimi have to be blunt with the Iraqi people, or should he have withdrawn from the scene? For the first part of that question, the answer is at the discretion of Kadhimi himself.

As for the second, regarding his withdrawal or apology, even at the end of his term, the difficulties of agreeing on an alternative, and the results of the elections that may be postponed, all of this will open the doors for a return to bloody violence in Iraq’s squares and streets.

To conclude, I will return to the beginning, to Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who perturbed a number of his friends by accepting his assignment and asked them whether his decision was hasty and whether their confusion was sensible. This is especially pertinent since his opponents, who rushed him to accept the assignment, are now in strange haste to withdraw it, even if this leads to the ruin of what remains of Basra.

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