The 2021 Iraqi elections
On October 10, parliamentary elections are held in Iraq. The elections come after almost two years of unsteady rule by the Mustafa Al-Kadhimi led government.
The division of the political system along sectarian lines, also known as “al mohasasa” makes it difficult to solve the root problems that reproduce the status quo. The elections could however bring change.
In the elections, economic grievances will be the biggest fault line. During Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s rule, Iraq saw a sharp rise in poverty rates. Existing economic grievances were exacerbated when the government decided to devalue the Iraqi dinar against the US dollar in December 2020.
The economic question should be interpreted in a regional context. The geopolitical reality is such that the region is divided into two major axes. The American sponsored Arab-zionist alliance and the alliance of resistant countries and groups. Decisive questions like security and sovereignty all revolve around this equation. This regional division gives rise to the most important polarizing issues.
Pro normalization vs anti-zionism
Normalization with "Israel" means accepting economic and military domination over resistance and sovereignty. Today Iraqi politics is divided by blocs that want to normalize and join the Arab-zionist alliance while others hold onto resistance as the solution.
After the turn of the last century, plans were drawn up for West Asia to be dominated by "Israel" so that the American and European powers would be ensured access to vital resources and trade routes. This would only be possible by destroying existing regional powers and the fragmentation of these nations along ethno-sectarian lines. The goal was to break any form of resistance. Multiple wars were launched to impose this project. Iraq was invaded, a war was unleashed on Lebanon and the Palestinians had to face multiple wars and a brutal occupation. This culminated in an attempt at turning Syria into a failed state. All these imperialist interventions failed to reach their respective objectives. The people held on to the option of resistance as the solution to pursue their interests.
The question of sovereignty: Expelling all foreign troops from Iraq.
The 2003 US-led war and occupation of Iraq has been and still is the most decisive factor in shaping the status quo in Iraq. It was the war that destroyed the state, the infrastructure, dismantled its institutions, and paved the way for the restructuring of the economy into a neo-liberal heaven. Moreover, it is the US occupation that actively prevents the reconstruction of Iraq. Perhaps the most stringent issue for the Iraqi public is the absence of a functioning electricity grid. When Adel Abdelmahdi's administration signed a mega-contract with Siemens to build power plants in Iraq that can provide electricity to all Iraqis, the US intervened and the contract was terminated. When the same administration signed the biggest economic deal in Iraqi history with China to join the Belt and Road Initiative, the deal was abandoned under American pressure. If implemented, fast reconstruction and mega infrastructure projects like the Grand fao port could have been realized.
The question of economic grievances is therefore directly related to the question of sovereignty. If Iraqis want to determine their future and make decisions that are in the interest of the nation, the occupier must be expelled. In January 2020 the Iraqi parliament officially voted and requested all foreign troops to leave Iraq. The Americans did not heed the call and ever since have been seeking to bolster an alliance in Iraqi politics that is in favor of a US military presence. In the coming elections, Iraqi political blocks will be divided along with this issue.
The question of security: dismantling Hashd al Shabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces)
During the US-led occupation, the Iraq army was dismantled. The goal was to build a new institution that was trained and armed by the US. Riddled by corruption and low morals in 2014, the Iraqi army collapsed in the face of an internationally supported offense of ISIS. The US declined to offer any support to the Iraqi army nor did they deliver the weapons that the Iraqi government had already paid for. Heeding the fatwa of Jihad issued by the religious seminaries in Najaf, the Hashd al Shabi was formed to counter this offensive. With the support of Iran and the Lebanese resistance, ISIS was defeated militarily by the combined force of the Hashd and the Iraqi armed forces.
This was not the last attempt to break up Iraq that was foiled by the PMF. In 2017, the PMF together with the Iraqi army won a decisive victory against the KRG and the Peshmerga in Kirkuk after the latter had annexed the land in an attempt to break away from Iraq.
The PMF later became officially part of the Iraqi armed forces. The PMF now functions as a republican guard, safeguarding the nation from attempted coups and secession. They play a key role in fighting remnants of ISIS and providing security on the Syrian-Iraqi border. Moreover, the PMF is tasked with safeguarding the trade routes that form the heart of an emerging economic alliance that counters the Arab-zionist alliance. Election campaigns from all big political blocks have been dominated by calls for either dissolving or strengthening the PMF.
Voting despite the 'muhasasa'
Analyzing Iraq without the regional and geopolitical context is futile and does not reflect reality. While it is true that any government formed after the elections will be heavily impeded by the American imposed muhasasa, it does not mean direct change is impossible. The importance of these elections was acknowledged by Sayyid Ali Al-Sistani’s office by advising the people to vote. Voting for a certain block could mean the restoration of the inflated price of the dollar to its original level. This move could drastically improve the economic situation of millions of households. A new government could rejoin the China deal as well as the agreement with Siemens. The results of the elections could either weaken or strengthen the PMF, as such, it could either weaken or strengthen US presence in Iraq. The outcome of the elections could either strengthen the blocks that seek to realign themselves with zionist gulf Arab interests while it could also strengthen and legitimize the position of the resistance.
This article was originally published on Al Mayadeen English.
The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Iraq Now.