The structural economic crisis in Iraq and its political consequences have continued. This was blatantly manifested in the government's failure to secure employee salaries. According to the statements of Mazhar Mohammed Saleh, the financial adviser to the Iraqi government, "Iraq's revenues currently amount to approximately 4 trillion Iraqi dinars per month, while we need 7 trillion to cover expenses and salaries". The matter was politically reflected in the worsening of relations between the Kurdistan Region and the Iraqi Parliament, which were already tense due to a dispute over oil export revenues.
The role of the [Iranian-backed] loyalist factions in Iraq constitutes a complex problem for Iraqi-US relations as a result of the growing role of those factions, which are among the most effective security and military tools for the Iranian expansionist project in the Arab region. Those loyalist factions had announced a truce to stop firing rockets at the US embassy in Baghdad, as a result of the pressure exerted and the US threats that the US would conduct intensive bombing operations against 80 sites belonging to the Popular Mobilisation Committee (PMC, al-Hashed al-Shaabi) and the factions once the Embassy has been shut down.
Seven months before the date set for the early parliamentary elections, in June 2021, the Sadrist Movement launched its electoral campaign by revealing that it seeks to win the majority of seats in the next parliament and thus have the right to name the Prime Minister. This came through a series of coordinated positions by the Movement’s leader Muqtada al-Sadr and his senior aides, and was met with a mixture of caution and skepticism on the part of the political and popular circles, given the radical changes that this would cause in the map of the distribution of influence between the main Shiite actors and, subsequently, in the Iraqi political balances.
As a result of the financial and political crisis, the delay in paying employees' salaries, and the Kurdish blocs' refusal to vote on the borrowing law that was approved by the Iraqi Council of Representatives (COR) in November 2020, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of the Kurdistan region in the first week of December 2020. The protesters burned party headquarters in Sulaymaniyah and blocked roads with burning tyres, while the security services carried out crackdowns and arrests and used live ammunition to disperse the protesters, which led to deaths and injuries among the protesters.
While most of the demonstrations were confined to the provinces of Sulaymaniyah and Halabja, which are under the control of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), they indicate the exacerbating danger that may be caused by the economic crisis throughout the region, especially as it comes at a time when the Kurdish Region is about to split, given that the differences between Baghdad and Erbil have reached their climax. Therefore, the Region quickly sent a delegation headed by Qubad Talabani, Deputy Prime Minister of the Region and a leader of the PUK, to Baghdad to reach a solution to the budget and salary issues.
Iraq constituted one of the most important agenda items that were absent from the US election race in 2020, in contrast to previous elections in which it was, specifically since 2003, strongly present in the presidential debates or even in the statements of the candidates. This absence can be attributed to the fact that Iraq may constitute a secondary foreign policy issue for the US in the coming stage, and that other Middle Eastern affairs, including the Iranian nuclear agreement and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, constitute more urgent concerns. This raises a question about the extent of Iraq’s importance for the new US administration led by President Joe Biden. This paper is an attempt to shed light on the nature of the approach with which President Biden will deal with the Iraqi issue, and his future options.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi took the political elites by surprise on July 31, 2020 when he announced that early elections would be held on June 6, 2021. He has since been leading a hidden political battle with the largest parliamentary blocs over the early elections.
This paper sheds light on al-Kadhimi’s motives for bringing the elections forward, the stances of the political elites regarding the move, and the prospects for the early elections.
Iraq today finds itself at a crossroads, beset by challenges and life-and-death decisions. The public protests that erupted in early October 2019 revealed a number of deep structural crises in the country, growing public resentment vis-à-vis the political elite, and an expanding rift between these political forces and the Iraqi street. They have ignited a conflict that has opened the door to all manner of possible future scenarios for the nation.
Following the defeat of ISIS in late 2017, Iraq has entered a new era. A number of key internal and external factors will determine Iraq’s future in this new epoch and will have a significant bearing on the security and stability of the entire region.
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