On eve of mass protests, what's next for Iraq's political crisis?

Iraq's Supreme Court canceled the decision to dismiss the parliament speaker and the Abadi reform Cabinet, intensifying the political crisis as the popular movement prepares for mass demonstrations July 15.

al-monitor Anti-government protesters gather as they try to approach the heavily fortified Green Zone at Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq, May 27, 2016.  Photo by REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily.

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terror attacks, protests, parliament, muqtada al-sadr, iraqi domestic politics, iraq crises, is, baghdad

Jul 14, 2016

BAGHDAD, Iraq — On June 28, the nation's Federal Supreme Court decided to nullify two parliamentary sessions, the first held April 14, during which parliament Speaker Salim al-Jubouri was dismissed by what are known as the Reform bloc legislators, and the second held April 26, during which a partial parliament reshuffle was approved in the absence of the Reform bloc politicians.

That has set the stage for events to come to a head this month, as the parliamentary recess has ended and a parliament session is to be held sometime soon.

Also, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who on May 28 began a retreat from public action, re-emerged this month. In addition, a truce between protesters and the pro-government and political reform movement came to a halt July 6, at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

This indicates the onset of a new significant political conflict between parliamentary parties on the one hand, and between security services and angry protesters led by Sadr on the other.

Ahmed Abdul Hussein, a member of the Coordination Committee of Baghdad Protests, posted on his Facebook page on July 5 that Sadr, in conjunction with the civil movement, is setting in motion a large demonstration for July 15.

His post read, “[Our] meeting with Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr included the following: A review of the process of the demonstrations and protests since they first began in July 2015 until this day, an analysis of the results, constraints and proposed solutions, and an agreement on a demonstration in which millions will participate on July 15.”

The demonstration will be in protest against the delay in achieving the reforms and the formation of a technocratic government in addition to the security situation that has deteriorated remarkably this month, with the prime example being the July 3 bombing in the Karrada district of Baghdad, killing over 200 people, in addition to an attempt to bomb the Sayyid Muhammad Shiite shrine in Balad on July 8 that killed at least 40.

As a result of the carnage, Sadr intends to expand the demands of the protests to include changing the leadership of the security issue.

All of this reflects that Sadr is convinced that his reform goals have not been achieved and that he will go out of his way to mobilize the street in order to pressure the politicians and government institutions to achieve what he believes is reform.

Some parties, including the Kurdish Alliance’s parliamentary bloc, see this as “political blackmail.” This was expressed by Mohsen al-Sadoun, a member of parliament for the Kurdish Alliance, who told Al-Monitor, “Using the street to clash with the security forces and storm the government’s headquarters is unacceptable, and it expresses an attempt to impose a one-sided political will on the rest of the parties involved in the political process. Those parties have their own supporters and popular movements, but they do not use them to terrorize the other parties.”

On April 30 and May 20, Sadr supporters stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the Cabinet, the parliament and embassies of some countries, notably the US Embassy.

Sadoun said he believes that “the Federal Court’s nullification of the April 14 and 26 sessions will allow political initiatives to return and will pave the way for negotiations, provided that they are not under political pressure from any party.”

Parliament member Abdul Rahman al-Louezi said the Reform bloc believes that the nullification of the parliamentary session where Jubouri was dismissed will not stop parliament from attempting to dismiss him once again.

“The Reform bloc will operate as an opposition bloc within the parliament and will do whatever it takes to dismiss Jubouri because he is behind the delay in achieving reform. His dismissal must be accomplished in such a way that it puts an end to sectarian and partisan quotas in government agencies,” Louezi told Al-Monitor.

It seems that the Reform bloc's insistence on proceeding with Jubouri’s dismissal will keep the political conflict ongoing, with the possibility of escalation. The court’s decision to cancel the dismissal and political reshuffle sessions will not be a prelude to solving the crisis, especially since Sadr continues to organize demonstrations demanding the formation of a technocratic government and putting an end to the quota system.

On the other hand, should the top three Iraqi leaders, (the president, the prime minister and the parliament speaker) insist on remaining in their positions and reject the “reform” demanded by the Reform bloc and Sadr, the crisis will hit a dead end, all the while the security and economic situations continue to deteriorate, plaguing the country with constant tension in the absence of a solution that satisfies all parties.

Meanwhile, all of this will impact the state system in general, which will lead to a constant state of weakness in government institutions, accompanied by a failure to take serious measures regarding the security situation and the conditions in a post-Islamic State phase.

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