Iraq’s government chaos
August 2, 2022 - Power struggles between Iraq’s nationalistic Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the Iran-backed Coordination Framework mean the nation has gone nearly ten months without a government.
Sadr is a populist with a fiercely loyal support base and a track record of radical action. He fought U.S. forces after the 2003 invasion and opposed all foreign interference, especially from Iran. Sadr commanded a powerful militia, the Mehdi Army, but disbanded it in 2008 after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent Iraqi troops to drive it out of the southern city of Basra. Its successor, the Peace Brigades, retains thousands of armed fighters.
Among the rival Shi’ite Muslim groups affiliated with heavily armed militias, the Coordination Framework -- led by Maliki, who Tehran supported for his opposition to Saddam Hussein during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war -- is Sadr’s fiercest opponent.
Over the past week, Sadr’s supporters stormed Iraq’s parliament after Maliki nominated a pro-Iran politician as Iraq’s new leader. The choice of Mohammed al-Sudani as prime minister, a former minister in al-Maliki’s government, is opposed by Sadr, who sees him as an Iran-backed stooge of his bitter foe, Maliki.
Sadr has vowed peaceful political action, but his backing by the Peace Brigades is stoking fears of armed clashes if the standoff escalates.
Sadr has harnessed the anger over Sudani’s nomination and rising religious zeal ahead of the Muslim holiday of Ashura, calling on his supporters in the southern and central provinces to take to the streets.
Ashura marks the killing of the Prophet Muhammed’s grandson, Imam Hussein, and Shi’ites will turn out by the thousands to commemorate the August 7-8 holiday. Meanwhile, outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi continues in a caretaker role.