The loyalist factions, which are associated with the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, have transformed into a parallel force to the Iraqi state, even as they present themselves as the main representative of the Shiite component in Iraq. However, this rise has been facing major challenges after the assassination on 3 January 2020 of the Commander of the Iranian Quds Force (QF) Qasem Soleimani together with the Deputy Chairman of the Popular Mobilisation Committee (PMC, al-Hashd al-Shaabi) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, as disagreements arose within the loyalist factions that have started to threaten the unity of the loyalist home on one the hand, and political and security stability in Iraq on the other hand.
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.
On the recommendation of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), the Iraqi government decided to postpone the early parliamentary elections that were scheduled to be held from June to October 2021, which deepened doubts about the seriousness of the new date, especially in the light of the procrastination by the ruling parties in meeting the legal requirements to conduct this extraordinary election. This paper sheds light on the background of the postponement decision, the calculations of the political forces, and the scenarios for the future of the elections.
Iraq’s economic outlook has rapidly deteriorated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many years, economic progress and state legitimacy in the country have been undermined by an undiversified economy, as well as Iraq’s dependence on oil revenues, bloated public sector, rigid budget, rampant corruption and weak state capacity. This economic and political deterioration has inspired conflict and instability, contributing in 2019 to the rise of one of the country’s biggest social and political uprisings. It has also left the country with limited capacity to mitigate and manage the COVID-19 crisis and its socio-economic impacts.
However, unlike previous crises, the current economic breakdown and its resultant political consequences are far from temporary. The 2021 year does not promise any significant improvement in this regard, with a budget deficit estimated at 63 trillion dinars (US $43 billion) – the biggest in Iraq’s history and the highest among the OPEC countries. The measures implemented now by Iraq’s ruling elites will be instrumental in determining the future of the country and the overall stability of the region. Therefore, how will the country's worsening economic situation and rising poverty affect its already unstable political structure?
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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