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Iraqi Factions Shoot Themselves in the Foot as Kadhimi Escapes the Abyss

Iraqi Factions Shoot Themselves in the Foot as Kadhimi Escapes the Abyss

Monday, 8 November, 2021 - 07:00
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. (Reuters file photo)

Pressure has mounted on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to “decisively and swiftly” retaliate against armed factions, including those involved in the attempt on his life.

However, the reality on the ground and the complex political scene in Iraq means that the PM and his team will have to take a measured response to the assassination attempt: Implicate the rivals and then dismiss them.

Before the assassination attempt, the media affiliated with the pro-Iran armed factions were fueling incitement against the government and prime minister. Two members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were killed during protests against recent parliamentary elections that saw the resounding defeat of the pro-Iran groups. They were killed during clashes with the security forces guarding Baghdad’s Green Zone. At their funeral, leader of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq movement ominously vowed to Kadhimi that the deceased will be avenged.

Politically, the clashes near the Green Zone were aimed at eliminating Kadhimi’s chances of renewing his term. They were also aimed at undermining cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Sadrist movement, emerged as the victor in the elections, and luring him into a conflict at the doors of the government headquarters.

Before the assassination attempt, the factions opposed to the elections had found themselves in a corner and political isolation not seen since before ISIS swept Iraq in 2014. With this new isolation, the factions probably have no problem plunging Iraq in chaos and dragging their rivals with them.

The scene in Iraq changed as soon as the drones struck Kadhimi’s residence on Saturday. Everyone in Iraq, including the PM’s rivals, were quick to condemn the attack, while at the same time raising questions over it as if to imply that Kadhimi himself had come up with the plot. Such speculation is aimed at manipulating the public into believing that the attack was indeed plotted by the PM, not a failed coup against the ruling authority.

As it stands, Kadhimi is in a favorable position. The attempt on his life could be used to break the political deadlock caused by the elections. He now needs to draft a government response to the side responsible for the attack to ease concerns over the fate of the country’s political system and to prevent similar attacks from taking place in the future.

After the attack and outpouring of Arab and international condemnation, Kadhimi has seized the initiative from his rivals. He now has a lot of room to maneuver, including ending the crisis over the elections results, which would be seen as a loss for the armed factions.

A senior political member of the Dawa party noted: “The recent chaos may cost the Shiite parties a lot on the internal and external scenes in Iraq.”

Despite all this, the public still describes Kadhimi as weak and having failed in countering attempts to weaken the state. The critics fear that the state would be swallowed up by the armed factions, but it is evident that the PM is waiting for the factions to make mistakes so that they would eliminate each other. As he watches on, he will set the pace and demonstrate his habitual calm and resilience against adversity.

People close to the PM explain that his approach to resolving crises in Iraq starts by envisaging conflicts similar to those in Syria or Yemen erupting in his country. Kadhimi’s calm appears effective politically. Indeed, political dialogue to resolve the crisis has started and it will lead to some factions being removed from the political picture and others remaining because they are willing to reach an agreement to end the political tussle and counter attempts to rise up against the ruling authority.

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