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Understanding Iraq Crisis: Weak Institutions, Strong Militias, and Uncertain Future

Featured speakers: Dr. Massaab Al-Aloosy, Rasha Al-Aqeedi, Dr. Shahla Al-Kli, and Zeidon Al-Kinani.


Since October 2021, the government of Iraq has been embroiled in a seeming intractable political crisis. Following the victory of the “Sadrist Movement” in Iraq’s general election, the party sought for eight months to build a national majority coalition between Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds opposed to Iran’s growing influence in Iraq. However, the Sadrists’ leader, influential cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, and his allies have consistently failed to break the majority required to appoint another president and prime minister. Al-Sadr’s actions have been strongly opposed by Iraq’s Shia pro-Iran “Coordination Framework,” which has pushed instead for a consensual government guaranteeing them decision-making authority.

The Sadrists’ efforts toward government formation abruptly ended in June when the bloc’s members of parliament simultaneously resigned from parliament at Al-Sadr’s request. The move was followed by several waves of protests, leading to repeated occupations of the heavily fortified Green Zone and even the Iraqi parliament building; in the most recent round of protest, rival Shia armed groups backed by Iran and Al-Sadr clashed for the first time in the Green Zone, threatening to engulf the country in a Shia-Shia civil war. Order was restored after Al-Sadr ordered his supporters to leave the Green Zone and the Iraqi armed forces imposed a curfew, but the incident, shocking though it was, does not appear to have resolved the larger crisis. Iraq’s enduring social and sectarian divisions, exacerbated by foriegn influence, have led to an extremely unstable political situation in which no faction appears able to gain a secure majority and govern effectively and no authority seems willing or able to dissolve the current parliament and call for a new election.

What are the constitutional dilemmas currently facing Iraq, particularly with regard to efforts to dissolve parliament? How have political alliances in Iraq changed since October 2021? What is the role of foreign intervention in exacerbating the crisis? How have militias growing power affected the political process? How can Iraqi leaders restore trust with each other? In the long run, what improvements, whether legislative or constitutional reforms or broader societal changes, could help to prevent a future crisis?

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