Iran’s henchmen stage a coup in Baghdad

Publish: 8:02 PM, June 30, 2022 | Update: 8:02:PM, June 30, 2022

Iraq is witnessing a brazen coup d’etat. Nine months ago, the Iran-backed Fatah paramilitary coalition suffered a devastating electoral defeat, plunging to just 17 out of 329 seats. That should have meant political extinction.
Yet, after months of cynical obstruction tactics, it has forced a situation in which – flying in the face of every constitutional principle – it has been gifted sufficient parliamentary seats to become the largest party in parliament, able to install a prime minister of its choosing.
Despite having had the largest party in parliament following the October elections, cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr found his efforts continually thwarted when taking even elementary steps toward forming a Cabinet.
Eventually, Al-Sadr had the mother of all tantrums in early June and compelled all his 73 MPs to resign, partly due to successful Iranian efforts to shatter the fragile alliance between Al-Sadr and the Kurdistan Democratic Party. In consequence, throughout Shiite-majority constituencies, pro-Iran candidates who were humiliatingly defeated by the Sadrists have suddenly found themselves the default occupants of many of these empty seats – scarcely believing their luck. Last week, they were formally sworn into parliament, leaving the Iran-aligned Coordination Framework -composed of elements that were definitively rejected by the electorate – with a dominant bloc of about 130 MPs.
A Hashd-dominated government consolidates Iraq’s position as an Iranian satellite state. American forces and Western assets would be compelled to depart, with dangerous consequences for the ongoing battle against Daesh. Iraq is set to wholly become a frontline state in Tehran’s war against the world, bristling with missiles and paramilitary armies. Missile strikes in recent days against an Iraq-based UAE oil company are a first taste of the enmity to come.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s efforts to enforce the rule of law and cultivate relations with Arab states will be left in tatters. Al-Kadhimi’s current round of visits to Tehran and Riyadh likely reflect his trepidation at how the situation is unraveling.
Did Iran pressure Al-Sadr into taking such a calamitous decision? Observers are skeptical of Al-Sadr’s denials. Inadvertently or deliberately, Al-Sadr has previously acted as the plaything of Tehran.
Iraq is set to wholly become a frontline state in Tehran’s war against the world, bristling with missiles and paramilitary armies
As son of the monumental cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq Al-Sadr, Muqtada was bequeathed the position of one of Iraq’s principal powerbrokers. Prone to extreme mood swings, Al-Sadr has a track record of petulantly abandoning politics when matters do not swing his way. He was crucially silent over the 2006-07 period, when his Mahdi Army and pro-Iran death squads murdered tens of thousands of citizens in bloody sectarian purges. In 2019, Al-Sadr was a leading figure in the protest movement. Then, overnight, he suddenly sided with Tehran-backed paramilitaries and his foot soldiers collaborated in bloodily crushing and undermining the protests. About 600 protesters were murdered by militia thugs, accompanied by a surge in assassinations of journalists and activists. If Al-Sadr’s resignation is about a return to street activism, he will struggle to rebuild credibility with mainstream activists after his past betrayals.

Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.