Following an April 2021 round of talks held via teleconference, the Iraqi government and the U.S. administration were all set for a fourth and final round of their "strategic dialogue", which was held on the sidelines of a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazemi to the U.S. in late July 2021. This round focused largely on the future of the U.S. military presence in Iraq.
The victory of the hardline camp’s candidate Ebrahim Raisi in Iran’s presidential election has drawn various reactions about the nature of Tehran’s potential role in Iraq due to the direct link between internal variables in Iran and the Iraqi landscape. So, what is the nature of Iran’s role in Iraq in the wake of Raisi’s rise to power? And how Tehran’s strategic priorities would be reevaluated? And what are the ramifications of all of this on the Iraqi landscape?
It goes without saying that securing a foothold on the Mediterranean remains one of Iran's top strategic goals. To this end, Iran is pressing Iraq today to complete a joint railway project designed to link the Imam Khomeini port on the Arabian Gulf with the Syrian port of Latakia on the Mediterranean. The project includes linking the Iranian city of Khorramshahr to the city of Basra in Iraq with a 32-kilometer rail network, which ultimately leads to linking the Iranian borders with the Iraqi and Syrian borders, through trade, economic and security relations. This paper discusses the strategic dimensions of this project, its geopolitical and economic implications, and its implementation scenarios.
As the October 10th, 2021 date for Iraq's early parliamentary election winds down, several issues and developments continue to cast a shadow over the country's political trajectory and raise questions about the vote, its integrity, and possible outcomes. Among the most important of these issues is a chronic electricity crisis that worsens even more during the summer months, the fact that most civil and protest movement activists decided not to participate in the elections, and recent moves by the country's main political actors.
Powerful Iraqi cleric and leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, announced on July 15, 2021 his decision to boycott the upcoming elections, and "withdraw his hand" from all members of the current and future governments, as he put it. Needless to say, this step raises questions about the motives that led to taking such a decision and to what extent it is serious, especially since it followed extensive preparations made by the Sadrist movement for the upcoming vote, and projections that it would be the biggest winner of the new electoral system. This is in addition to statements by several leaders of the movement that it will form the next government. Shortly after al-Sadr's announcement, a decision was issued by his private office to shut down the political body of the Sadrist movement and appoint its main officials, Nassar al-Rubaie and Muhammad al-Mawsili, as advisors to al-Sadr. Also, prominent movement politicians such as Hassan al-Kaabi, Hakim al-Zamili and Maha al-Douri quickly announced their withdrawal from the upcoming elections in compliance with al-Sadr's directives. Later, al-Sadr left Iraq for Lebanon, where he has a residence, apparently as a sign of moving away from the Iraqi politics, as he did in previous times. This paper discusses whether this step is a political tactic or an irreversible decision.
Tensions between the Iraqi government and the "Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)" continue to run high as systematic kidnappings and assassinations by the Iran-backed militia remain unabated. This has pushed grassroots to call for boycotting the vote similar to what happened before the 2018 elections against the wishes of government politicians and parliamentarians who continue to sound the alarm over any potential deferral of the elections. This paper attempts to anticipate future scenarios for the Iraqi elections based on the current situation in the country.
Mapping Political Actors in Iraq aims to: identify the main individuals, parties, alliances and other actors in Iraqi politics; analyze their strengths and weaknesses; identify the tools they employ to achieve their goals; expose the interactions and balances between them; and explore their regional and international alliances. In doing so, it identifies key polarizing issues and attitudes, as well as likely scenarios for their development going forward.
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.
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