After Latest Turn, is Muqtada al-Sadr Losing Influence in Iraq?
The populist cleric has repositioned himself in Iraqi politics multiple times, but his recent shift against youth-led protestors may signal his decline as an autonomous political force.
Following the US strike on Qassem Solaimani and Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis, populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has violently cracked down on youth-led protests in Iraq.
His paramilitaries and ‘blue hats’ – supposedly created to protect protestors from state and allied parastatal security forces – sought to end the months-long demonstrations by attacking the places where protesters have camped since October. In Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, they successfully captured the famous Turkish restaurant which had become a symbol of Iraq’s ‘October revolution’.
Stuck in the middle: Iraq and the enduring conflict between United States and Iran
When the United States killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani on January 3, it also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a powerful Iraqi militia leader. The move critically destabilized U.S.-Iraq relations.
Last weekend’s rocket attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which injured one person, and the 200,000-strong demonstration demanding the departure of U.S. military forces from Iraq, led by the anti-U.S. cleric-politician Muqtada al-Sadr, are merely some of the manifestations of this severe destabilization.
Although the United States and Iran managed to avoid an escalation to full-blown war — which would be very costly for both sides — a wide set of U.S. interests in Iraq has been seriously undermined, likely in a long-term way.
By Eric Bordenkircher, for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Pivoting to the KRG: Restructuring the U.S. Military Presence in Iraq
Since the start of the Iraq War in 2003, a defining element of American policy has been the importance of the political and territorial integrity of the Iraqi state.
In light of the U.S. killing of Qassem Soleimani, subsequent retaliation from Iran, and continued violence in Iraq—most recently manifesting in an unclaimed attack against the U.S. embassy—the U.S. government must now reconsider the viability of its current policy towards Iraq.
By Amberin Zaman for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Iraqi Kurdistan president: ‘We are not scared of Iran, but we respect Iran’
The assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in a Jan. 3 drone strike carried out by the United States sent shock waves throughout the region.
Those who argued that Tehran would take its time to retaliate proved wrong. On the night of Jan. 8, Iran launched more than a dozen missiles on Iraqi bases housing US forces. Several struck the Ain al-Assad base west of Baghdad.
Several others landed in an open field near an air base in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Nobody was killed. The attack was seen, however, as a clear message from Tehran about the potential punishment Iraqis would face if they pursue their relations with the United States.
By David Pollock, for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Eight Reasons Why the United States and Iraq Still Need Each Other
The assassination of Qasem Soleimani has brought the tensions in U.S.-Iraqi relations to a boil, with militia factions strong-arming a parliamentary resolution on American troop withdrawal and various European allies contemplating departures of their own.
Before they sign the divorce papers, however, officials in Baghdad and Washington should consider the many reasons why staying together is best for both them and the Middle East.
By Christine McCaffray van den Toorn and Raad Alkadiri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
US-Iran tensions shift Iraq from brink of reform to brink of war
Rising US-Iranian tensions over the past week have seemingly brought the two sides closer to outright confrontation than at any time in the past four decades.
Tehran’s vow to take revenge for the US drone strike Jan. 3 that killed the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), or Hashid Shaabi, last week in Baghdad has been met with equally bellicose statements by US President Donald Trump, who sent 3,500 additional troops to the Middle East after the assassination and promised that any Iranian action would be met with a massive US military response.
By Michael Knights, for Politico. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
The targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraq’s most senior militiamen, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, justified by their orchestration of the deaths of hundreds of Americans, has led to a widespread fear of an imminent war with Iran that could cause untold loss of life and further destabilize an already devastated region.
How Iran might respond is impossible to know (much less how the U.S. would react in turn), but I see the potential for a success in Iraq—if the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi government can focus on their shared interests and continue to purge Iran’s malign influence.