Fears of civil instability are building in Iraq as the country struggles to establish a cabinet eight months after parliamentary elections in which Iran-backed parties fared poorly.

The caretaker government has been unable to address concerns such as a food crisis caused by severe drought and the war in Ukraine due to the political impasse.

Water infrastructure upgrades have been halted, and public outrage over unemployment, water shortages, and rising food costs has grown.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the UN envoy for Iraq, warned Iraqi political leaders that “the streets are going to boil over” and that national interests were “taking a backseat to short-sighted considerations of resource management.”

Muqtada Al-Sadr, a powerful Shiite preacher, was the big winner in last October’s elections. His Shiite opponents, who are backed by Iran, lost around two-thirds of their seats and have rejected the election results.

The struggle to establish a government places Al-Sadr and his Kurdish and Sunni allies against the Coordination Framework, a coalition of Iran-backed Shiite parties and their allies on the one hand, and the Coordination Framework, a coalition of Iran-backed Shiite parties and their allies on the other. The independents are caught in the middle, torn between conflicting factions’ attempts to entice them to one side or the other.
“It’s not about power; it’s about survival,” said Sajad Jiyad, a Century Foundation fellow based in Iraq. There has previously been protracted political squabbling in Iraq over the election of a new president and prime minister, but the current impasse is the longest yet.

Al-Sadr has been unable to rally enough support in parliament to secure the two-thirds majority needed to elect Iraq’s new president, which is a prerequisite for appointing the next prime minister and forming a Cabinet.

According to analysts, Iran has failed to reach an accord between different Shiite factions, a role formerly played by Qassem Soleimani, the Quds Force leader killed in a US drone hit at Baghdad airport in January 2020. At least three journeys to Iraq by Soleimani’s successor to arbitrate amongst Shiites have ended in failure.

Because Iraq has not paid for earlier shipments, Tehran has cut 5 million cubic meters of gas supply to Baghdad. Last month, Iraq’s Electricity Minister, Adel Karim, said he had no idea how the country would pay the approximately $1.7 billion in arrears before the summer heat.

Independent members of parliament — parties drawn from the 2019 protest movement — are also losing hope of forming a cohesive force to support protesters’ demands in the legislature.

Some independents have said they have received death threats and have been offered tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to join the Iran-backed organisation.


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