Iraqi Political Landscape

Has Iraq Become a Field for Iranian-Turkish Agreement?

EPC | 01 Oct 2020

​On 8 September 2020, the sixth meeting of the Iran-Turkey Cooperation Council was held under the chairmanship of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The meeting approved many common issues between the two sides as a gateway to enhancing their strategic relations at this stage. However, what is striking is that the meeting, which took place by means of videoconferencing, confirmed that the two countries would take joint steps in the region in a way that serves their interests, “including joint military and security operations, in countering terrorism and organised crime” groups. These are directly linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Iranian Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK). It did not take long hours before reports emerged of an escalation of Turkish and Iranian bombardment of the areas where these two organisations are deployed in the cities of Erbil and Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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“Katyusha Cells”: The Long Arm of Iran-Backed Factions in Iraq

​Firas Elias | 30 Sep 2020

The beginning of 2020 marked the actual emergence of the so-called "Katyusha cells" in Iraq. The killing of the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards General Qasem Soleimani, accompanied by the Deputy Chairman of the Popular Mobilisation Committee (PMC) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in the vicinity of Baghdad International Airport at the beginning of 2020, was the practical beginning of the formation of those cells, which took it upon themselves to attack the headquarters and bases in which the US forces are located, as well as the US Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone. Despite the lack of clarity of the structure of those cells and of their organisational and administrative links, what is certain is that they came about as a result of an agreed internal fission between the [pro-Iran] loyalist factions in order to carry out irresponsible missile attacks against the US forces and exert more pressure on the Iraqi government regarding the issue of removing the US forces from Iraq.

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Iraq is Listed on Europe’s List of High-Risk Countries in Money Laundering Crimes: Reasons and Consequences

EPC | 29 Sep 2020

​While the government of Mustafa al-Kadhimi is struggling to ensure that the salaries of employees, retirees, and beneficiaries of the social protection network continue to be paid after the sharp decline in public treasury revenues due to the decline in oil prices under the pressure of the coronavirus outbreak, its efforts received a severe blow following the reinclusion by the European Union (EU) in May 2020 of Iraq in the list of high-risk countries for money laundering and terrorist financing, along with North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. This step would have negative economic and financial repercussions for Iraq.

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Ongoing Displacement Crisis in Iraq: Causes and Government Efforts

EPC | 25 Aug 2020

Although three years have passed since the end of the war against Da’esh and the liberation of areas of Iraq formerly under the group’s control, political interference has prevented the return of more than one million displaced citizens – primarily Sunni, Yazidi, and Christian Arabs – who fled their homes in response to the destruction caused by military operations. In this article, we will discuss the real causes preventing the return of these populations, identify who benefits from the existence of refugee camps and from opportunities to exploit the crisis in affected cities, and examine the efforts made thus far by Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government to resolve the situation.

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Differences between Baghdad and Erbil: Economic and Political Consequences and Early Elections

EPC | 18 Aug 2020

​Intensive negotiations are reported to be underway between Baghdad and Erbil to develop a comprehensive agreement on the pending differences over the past decade, including oil, the budget, and the deployment of Peshmerga forces in the disputed areas. The negotiations are held with the support of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) headed by Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, but are facing several difficulties in terms of the current Iraqi complications, which were exacerbated by the announcement by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi that early elections would be held in June 2021.

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Regulation of Border Crossings in Iraq: The Economic Necessity and Political Motivations

EPC | 13 Aug 2020

Under the title of combating corruption and maximizing the state's non-oil revenues to counter the repercussions of the coronavirus crisis, in July 2020, Mustafa al-Kadhimi's government began a campaign to restore control of the country's border crossings after having been left for many years to be looted by the networks of political and administrative corruption that cost Iraq huge financial losses. This step puts Kadhimi on a collision course with the dominant political and religious powers, particularly the pro-Iranian Shiite militias which have strongly got involved in exploiting the border crossings at both the economic and security levels.

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Al-Kadhimi’s Visit to Iran: Iraqi Sovereignty in Exchange for Economic Aid

EPC | 03 Aug 2020

​On 21 July 2020, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi paid a visit to Iran. This was his first external visit after he took office. It also came after he delayed a scheduled visit to Saudi Arabia due to the hospitalization of the Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz. Kadhimi’s visit to Tehran comes in the context of an Iraqi political dynamism that is different from before. This dynamism focuses on establishing Iraqi sovereignty and demanding that Iran control its loyal factions in Iraq. In return, Iraq would continue to play the role of Iran’s economic lungs.

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Sunni Endowment Diwan Triggers Struggle over Sunni Marji’yya in Iraq

EPC | 27 Jul 2020

Once again, the controversy returns in the Iraqi Sunni community regarding the religious authorities. This time the cause is the replacement of the President of the Sunni Endowment Office (or Diwan, SEO) and the attempt to designate a new name to run the Sect’s endowments and associated investment projects. The disagreement between the relevant parties reflects the ongoing conflict between the secular and Brotherhood Sunni powers in Iraq.

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Al-Kadhimi Government and its Strategy to Contain the Popular Mobilization Forces

EPC | 26 Jul 2020

​The factions of the Popular Mobilization Committee (PMC, al-Hashed al-Shaabi) constitute a real challenge to the new Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi who had pledged in his government programme to establish the state sovereignty, limit the possession of weapons to the state, and organize the Iraqi military establishment in an effective and serious manner. Kadhimi’s promises came amidst a general feeling of depression and mistrust among the Iraqi people as a result of the repeated promises that were offered without being met by the former governments. This paper sheds light on the conflict of wills between the Kadhimi government and the PMC factions.

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The Electoral Law, the High Commission and the Federal Court: A Trilateral Threat to the Next Iraqi Elections

EPC | 01 Jul 2020

Immediately after the government of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi won the confidence of the Iraqi Council of Representatives (CoP) on 7 May 2020, the political blocs initiated consultations to amend the law of general elections approved in late 2019 amidst broad opposition by Kurdish and Sunni blocs. At the same time, some political powers opposed the method used by the Independent High Electoral Commission to form its offices, demanding that the Commission change that method and that the Commission Board be re-structured. This also coincided with the emergence of a crisis between the Supreme Judicial Council and the Federal Supreme Court. This paper discusses the differences regarding the amendment of the electoral law and the composition of the High Commission in addition to the crisis of the Federal Supreme Court and the impact of all this on the next parliamentary elections.

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The Forthcoming Iraqi-American Strategic Dialogue: Complicated Priorities and Thorny Issues

Firas Elias | 03 Jun 2020

On 7 April 2020, US Secretary of State Mark Pompeo said in a statement that his country “has proposed holding a strategic dialogue with the government of Iraq to be held in middle of June” and that “it will be the first review of all issues pertaining to the US-Iraq relations, including the future presence of US forces in the country”. This call for dialogue between Baghdad and Washington comes in the context of the growing tension on Iraqi territory between the US on the one hand, and Iran and its proxy Iraqi loyalist factions on the other, and after the Iraqi House of Representatives issued, early January 2020, a decision committing the government to evacuating foreign troops from Iraq in response to the assassination by the US of the Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and the deputy chairman of the Popular Mobilization Committee (al-Hashed al-Shaabi) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The call also comes amidst the suffering by Iraq from an overall health, social and economic crisis as a result of the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic and the likelihood of the collapse of the Iraqi economy as a result of the decline in oil revenues. This drives the governments of the two countries to “work together to stop any reversal of the gains . . . made in . . . efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilize the country”.

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Economic Crisis in Iraq: Consequences and Available Choices for Al-Kadhimi’s Government

EPC | 28 May 2020

With the major lockdown of living and economic fields due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, experts expect a major economic recession in the world that would be the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Iraq is one of the countries of the world that suffer from the implications of both the health and economic crises because of the corona epidemic, in addition to the financial crisis as a result of the fall in oil prices. All this coincides with exceptional conditions experienced by Iraq since the outbreak of protests at the beginning of October 2019 and the escalation of the US-Iranian conflict on its soil last year. This paper sheds light on the dimensions of the economic crisis experienced by Iraq, and discusses the options before the new Kadhimi government to counter this challenge.

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Iraqi-Chinese Economic Agreement: a Debate on Objectives and Benefits

EPC | 20 Feb 2020

Shortly before its resignation at the end of November 2019 amid wide protest movement, the government of former Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi signed a framework agreement for economic cooperation with China that envisages the financing of major infrastructure projects from Iraqi oil exported to China. The agreement stirred a political, economic and even popular debate triggered by the government's failure to present the deal to the parliament and keeping some of its clauses untold. This paper sheds light on the context of the agreement, reviews some of its known clauses, addresses political positions thereon, and discusses claims that the deal actually serves Iran.

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Can Mohammed Allawi Succeed in Forming Iraq's Next Government?

EPC | 17 Feb 2020

In a repeat of Adel Abdul-Mahdi's elevation to Iraq's premiership, the leader of the Sadrist Movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, and the leader of the pro-Iran Al-Fatah Alliance, Hadi al-Amiri, agreed to nominate former Minister of Communications Muhammad Tawfiq Allawi as a new prime minister. Once Allawi was officially designated by the President of the Republic, Barham Salih, on February 1, 2020, the demonstrations intensified in Baghdad and a number of southern provinces denouncing their ally's, Al-Sadr, departure from the protesters' conditions that the next prime minister must be independent, does not hold two nationalities and has not been a member of any previous government.

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Will the death of Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis lead to the decline of "PMF" in Iraq?

EPC | 10 Feb 2020

Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) has now to grapple with enormous challenges following the killing of its commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis in a US drone strike in early January this year. Al-Muhandis was the mastermind and chief architect of all of Iran's loyal factions, which have been buckling under mounting U.S. pressure. The US designated the PMF a terrorist organization and slapped major financial sanctions targeting a significant number of its leaders. This is in addition to U.S. and Israeli drone strikes against the group's camps and missile depots.

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Will the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan manage to overcome its current crisis?

EPC | 27 Jan 2020

The fourth general conference held by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) was an important event for both Kurdistan and wider Iraq, as it was the first such conference held since the death of party leader Jalal Talabani. This paper examines the outcomes of the conference and their impact on the future of the party and its role in politics.

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Impact of Soleimani killing on US–Iran conflict in Iraq

EPC | 26 Jan 2020

On January 3, 2020, the United States assassinated the head of the Iranian Quds Force, General Qasem Soleimani, and the deputy chief of the Popular Mobilization Forces, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. This operation followed a series of escalating incidents between the two sides. This paper will examine the repercussions of the recent escalations between Iran and the United States in Iraq and the possible conflict scenarios between the two sides that may emerge in the coming months.

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The Kurdish Parties and the Iraqi Protest Movement

EPC | 07 Jan 2020

Political leaders in the Kurdistan Region are highly concerned by the direction that the Iraqi protest movement has taken, not only because of the possibility that the protests may spread to the region, where living conditions are no different from those in the central and southern governorates, but also because of the possible changes to the Iraqi political system that could have an impact on the status of the region and threaten the foundations of its undeclared independence from the federal government.

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Amending the Iraqi constitution: Contents, political attitudes and scenarios

EPC | 08 Dec 2019

On October 28, 2019, the Iraqi parliament decided to form a committee to amend the constitution, as part of a set of other decisions agreed between the main political blocs in order to absorb the massive public anger expressed by the continuing popular protests in the central and southern governorates, but there are strong doubts that the committee can accomplish The draft amendment in four months, as well as doubts about the seriousness of the ruling political class in amending the constitution to achieve the protesters' demands for political reform.

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The Future of the Protest Movement in Iraq

EPC | 05 Dec 2019

The popular movement in Iraq continues to maintain momentum and engage various segments of society, despite a campaign of violent repression and widespread intimidation involving the assassination, kidnapping and arrest of activists, a media crackdown and internet blackouts, culminating in the Nasiriyah massacre and the outbreak of conflict in Najaf which tipped the country onto the brink. This paper will shed a light on the developments on the ground in Iraq and their political repercussions, as well as the Government’s remaining options for tackling the stubborn anger on the country’s streets.

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