Head of the Sadrist movement, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is carefully wading through the Iraqi political ring against his rivals in the pro-Iran Coordination Framework.
Iraq has witnessed a turbulent past two weeks with former minister Hoshyar Zebari being barred from running for president and the Supreme Court's surprise ruling on the Kurdistan Region's oil policy.
The ruling by the court on Tuesday cast doubt on the legal foundations of the independent oil policy of Iraq's Kurdish-run region and threatened to drive a political wedge between the two governments. The Supreme Court struck down the legal justifications for the semi-autonomous region's oil policy, effectively calling into question the future of the region's oil contracts, exports and revenues.
Amid these two developments, it appeared as though Sadr has been luring his rivals into revealing their cards as they grapple with the fallout of these rulings, their impact on the country and the formation of the new government.
However, the current tussle in Iraq goes beyond these rulings and the formation of a government, but extends to the very heart of the political process that has been in place since 2003.
The Coordination Framework is meanwhile, trying to exploit the rulings, warning Sadr against forming a government that excludes former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki or of joining the opposition.
Over the past two days, members of the Framework have mulled what the coming weeks will bring. They believe the rulings have dealt a blow to Sadr, who has been seeking the formation of a "national majority" government. The Framework has been opposed to this and believes the country cannot support the fallout from such a move.
Sadr, on the other hand, has been maneuvering to come out of the crisis with the least losses compared to his rivals. The fact that the judiciary has become involved in politics brings in a new factor into the equation, forcing the political powers to realize that they are being forced to form a new political system, even if it comes at a heavy price.
The rivals are now vying to come out on top during this critical time, with Sadr likely to emerge in the driving seat because he has the practical tools to set a new course alongside his Kurdish and Sunni allies.
This tripartite alliance is still reeling from the shock of the rulings and there has been speculation that Sadr may abandon his Kurdish ally, Masoud Barzani. However, indications from Najaf have pointed otherwise. Sadr appears committed to the alliance and the partnership that should establish a clear path in resolving disputes, even those on critical issues, such as oil, gas and the budget.
Barzani is facing a complicated situation with the barring of Zebari's nomination and the Supreme Court ruling. He is caught between calls from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to "prove himself" and between his banking on his alliance with Sadr. At the heart of his dilemma are his priorities, which Sadr is attempting to rearrange.
There are prices Erbil has to pay even with the tripartite alliance. Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was hoping that the alliance with Sadr for the sake of forming the new government would have come at a less painful price.
The price paid by the Kurds will ultimately force the Sunnis, the third party in the alliance, to worry that they will be dealt the next blow.