Will Sudani Adopt the Previous Iraqi Government’s Economic Policies?

A handout picture released by Iraq's prime minister's office shows the new Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani arriving for the official handover ceremony at the Republican Palace, the government's seat, in Baghdad's green zone. (Iraq's prime minister's office/ AFP)
A handout picture released by Iraq's prime minister's office shows the new Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani arriving for the official handover ceremony at the Republican Palace, the government's seat, in Baghdad's green zone. (Iraq's prime minister's office/ AFP)
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Will Sudani Adopt the Previous Iraqi Government’s Economic Policies?

A handout picture released by Iraq's prime minister's office shows the new Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani arriving for the official handover ceremony at the Republican Palace, the government's seat, in Baghdad's green zone. (Iraq's prime minister's office/ AFP)
A handout picture released by Iraq's prime minister's office shows the new Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani arriving for the official handover ceremony at the Republican Palace, the government's seat, in Baghdad's green zone. (Iraq's prime minister's office/ AFP)

These days, we are seeing increasing speculation, especially among Iraqi elites and economists, about the extent to which the country’s new prime minister, Mohamed Shia al-Sudani, can reverse some of the critical economic decisions that the Coordination Framework had criticized Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government of taking. Topping the list are the decision to devaluate the Iraqi dinar and a couple of other economic policies.

Dr. Nabil Al-Marsoumi, an academic and economist, said the program put forward by Sudani’s government did not mention reversing the decision to devaluate the currency by over a fifth - with 1,480 rather than 1,180 dinars becoming the equivalent of one US dollar.

The failure to reverse the decision of the former government demonstrates that its critics, most of whom are part of the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, had exploited the devaluation and its ramifications for the Iraqi people’s purchasing power as a pretext to undermine Kadhimi’s government.

“There was no amendment to the exchange rate in the government’s 2023 budget,” Marsoumi stressed. This affirms that Sudani’s government - and with it, the Coordination Framework deputies who dominate parliament - has backtracked on the exchange rate.

Marsoumi added that reversing the decision taken by Khadimi’s government and bringing the US dollar exchange rate back to 2020 levels would increase the government’s budget by 24 billion dollars.

He noted that over 50 MPs recently petitioned the government to reverse the decision. Sudani’s government, however, did not show any enthusiasm for this step, meaning that the decision taken by the former government had been correct despite the sharp criticism that had been levied at it at the time. Indeed, it is a decision several figures and platforms close to the Coordination Framework continue to criticize it.

Moreover, other economists have noted that the new government’s program did not mention the economic agreements that Kadhimi’s government had concluded with Arab countries.

Many within the Coordination Framework had criticized this decision and fiercely opposed it, especially those that are particularly close to Tehran.

Among them is the accord to sell Iraqi oil to Jordan at a discount and the economic agreements concluded with Egypt and Jordan, and the electric grid agreements with the Gulf states and Türkiye - more evidence that “Iraqi political forces usually pursue their private interests.”

While Sudani had called for reducing the salaries of high-ranking Iraqi officials, which he said would save the government 500 billion dinars (about 400 million dollars) a month, this seems unlikely. Indeed, many observers have said that they doubt Sudani will be able to do that since most ministers and senior officials are affiliated with the parties and groups in power. They are not simply going to roll over and surrender their privileges.

Experts believe that instead of a reduction in salaries, we could see Sudani make cuts to the privileges and financial incentives that come with such positions. In fact, they often cost the government multiples of the officials’ salaries. These incentives often take the form of funds allocated to the minister or official’s office, as well as a budget allocated for security.



Bedwetting, Nightmares and Shaking. War in Gaza Takes a Mental Health Toll, Especially on Children

A Palestinian child plays next to empty ammunition containers in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 16, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A Palestinian child plays next to empty ammunition containers in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 16, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Bedwetting, Nightmares and Shaking. War in Gaza Takes a Mental Health Toll, Especially on Children

A Palestinian child plays next to empty ammunition containers in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 16, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A Palestinian child plays next to empty ammunition containers in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 16, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

Nabila Hamada gave birth to twin boys in Gaza early in the war, in a hospital reeking of decaying bodies and full of displaced people. When Israeli forces threatened the hospital, she and her husband fled with only one of the babies, as medical staff said the other was too weak to leave. Soon after, Israeli forces raided the hospital, Gaza’s largest, and she never saw the boy again.
The trauma of losing one twin left the 40-year-old Hamada so scared of losing the other that she became frozen and ill-equipped to deal with the daily burden of survival, The Associated Press said.
“I’m unable to take care of my other, older children or give them the love they need,” she said.
She is among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians struggling with mental health after nine months of war. The trauma has been relentless. They have endured the killing of family and friends in Israeli bombardments. They have been wounded or disfigured. They have huddled in homes or tents as fighting raged and fled again and again, with no safe place to recover.
Anxiety, fear, depression, sleep deprivation, anger and aggression are prevalent, experts and practitioners told The Associated Press. Children are most vulnerable, especially because many parents can barely hold themselves together.
There are few resources to help Palestinians process what they are going through. Mental health practitioners say the turmoil and overwhelming number of traumatized people limit their ability to deliver true support. So they’re offering a form of “psychological first aid” to mitigate the worst symptoms.
“There are about 1.2 million children who are in need of mental health and psychosocial support. This basically means nearly all Gaza’s children,” said Ulrike Julia Wendt, emergency child protection coordinator with the International Rescue Committee. Wendt has been visiting Gaza since the war began.
She said simple programming, such as playtime and art classes, can make a difference: “The goal is to show them that not only bad things are happening.”
Repeated displacement compounds trauma: an estimated 1.9 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes. Most live in squalid tent camps and struggle to find food and water.
Many survivors of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas in southern Israel that precipitated the war in Gaza also bear the scars of trauma, and are seeking ways to heal. Hamas killed more than 1,200 Israelis and took around 250 hostage.
Sheltering near the southern city of Khan Younis, Jehad El Hams said he lost his right eye and fingers on his right hand when he picked up what he thought was a can of food. It was an unexploded ordnance that detonated. His children were almost hit.
Since then, he experiences sleeplessness and disorientation. “I cry every time I take a look at myself and see what I’ve become,” he said.
He reached out to one of the few mental health initiatives in Gaza, run by the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA.
Fouad Hammad, an UNRWA mental health supervisor, said they typically encounter 10 to 15 adults a day at shelters in Khan Younis with eating and sleeping disorders, extreme rage and other issues.
Mahmoud Rayhan saw his family shattered. An Israeli strike killed his young son and daughter. His wife's leg was amputated. Now he isolates himself inside his tent and sleeps most of the day. He talks to almost no one.
He said he doesn’t know how to express what’s happening to him. He trembles. He sweats. “I’ve been crying and feel nothing but heaviness in my heart.”
A relative, Abdul-Rahman Rayhan, lost his father, two siblings and four cousins in a strike. Now when he hears a bombardment, he shakes and gets dizzy, his heart racing. “I feel like I’m in a nightmare, waiting for God to wake me up,” the 20-year-old said.
For children, the mental toll of war can have long-term effects on development, Wendt said. Children in Gaza are having nightmares and wetting their beds because of stress, noise, crowding and constant change, she said.
Nashwa Nabil in Deir al-Balah said her three children have lost all sense of security. Her eldest is 13 and her youngest is 10.
“They could no longer control their pee, they chew on their clothes, they scream and have become verbally and physically aggressive,” she said. “When my son Moataz hears a plane or tank, he hides in the tent.”
In the central town of Deir al-Balah, a psychosocial team with the Al Majed Association works with dozens of children, teaching them how to respond to the realities of war and giving them space to play.
“In the case of a strike, they place themselves in the fetal position and seek safety away from buildings or windows. We introduce scenarios, but anything in Gaza is possible,” said project manager Georgette Al Khateeb.
Even for those who escape Gaza, the mental toll remains high.
Mohamed Khalil, his wife and their three children were displaced seven times before they reached Egypt. His wife and children arrived in January and he joined them in March. Their 8-year-old daughter would hide in the bathroom during shelling and shooting, saying, “We are going to die.”
Their 6-year-old son could sleep only after his mother told him that dying as a martyr is an opportunity to meet God and ask for the fruits and vegetables they didn’t have in hunger-ravaged Gaza.
Khalil recalled their terror as they escaped on foot down a designated “safe corridor” with Israeli guns firing nearby.
Even after arriving in Egypt, the children are introverted and fearful, Khalil said.
They have enrolled in a new initiative in Cairo, Psychological and Academic Services for Palestinians, which offers art and play therapy sessions and math, language and physical education classes.
“We saw a need for these children who have seen more horror than any of us will ever see,” said its founder, psychologist Rima Balshe.
On a recent field trip, she recalled, 5-year-old twins from Gaza who were playing and suddenly froze when they heard helicopters.
“Is this an Israeli warplane?” they asked. She explained it was an Egyptian aircraft.
“So Egyptians like us?” they asked. “Yes,” she reassured them. They had left Gaza, but Gaza had not left them.
There is hope that children traumatized by the war can heal, but they have a long way to go, Balshe said.
“I wouldn’t say ‘recovering’ but I certainly see evidence of beginning to heal. They may not ever fully recover from the trauma they endured, but we are now working on dealing with loss and grief,” she said. “It’s a long process.”