Iraq Politicians Bow Down To The Antichrist

Can Iraqi politicians appease Sadr as he flexes his influence?

Al Monitor

Many Iraqi political and government leaders have been beating a path to the door of Muqtada al-Sadr, hoping to reach some kind of understanding or detente with the powerful Shiite leader of the Sadrist movement.

Sadr’s movement holds 34 seats in the Iraqi parliament and has an armed force known as Saraya al-Salam, with an unknown number of troops. For two years, Sadr has been organizing major demonstrations, alleging corruption and seeking reform of Iraq’s election process. He has also advocated dismissing the High Election Commission (HEC) and replacing it with a completely nonpolitical board. He has been pressuring influential and highly placed Iraqi political forces and has threatened to have his followers boycott elections unless reforms are made.

Iraq’s provincial elections were postponed from April until Sept. 16 and could be delayed until next year given the ongoing struggle with the Islamic State (IS). Parliamentary elections are tentatively scheduled for April 2018.

On May 8, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met with Sadr in Karbala. The media offices of Sadr and Abadi did not make any press statements after the meeting, but a source in the Iraqi premiership who attended the Karbala meeting told Al-Monitor the men met for three hours.

“The meeting touched on several issues and yielded positive results,” the source said. Both sides agreed on a post-parliamentary election plan and to limit the influence of armed groups, to distance Iraq from the Shiite/Sunni regional axes and to find a solution to the HEC without dismissing it.

Following the meeting, Sadr said in a May 20 TV interview that he supports Abadi’s coalition for a second term as long as Abadi follows a path of reform. Now that Sadr has endorsed Abadi and the two have found mutual ground, Sadr isn’t as likely to heighten the tone of his rhetoric against the Iraqi government or organize more mass demonstrations.

Some Iraqi politicians, fearing that Sadr could bring about changes they do not want, are also trying to win his support — or at least sideline some of his demands that might interfere with their interests.

Among Sadr’s many other recent visitors was Speaker Salim al-Jabouri on May 6. According to a statement from Sadr’s office, Sadr called during that meeting for political parties and militias to stop interfering with the government and stressed the importance of the legislature in “strengthening national unity.”

The day before his meeting with Jabouri, Sadr met with Ammar al-Hakim, head of the National Alliance, Iraq’s largest political bloc. Although Sadr has many reservations about the alliance and had refused to continue to be part of it, sources said the men didn’t discuss the likelihood of the Sadrist movement ever returning to the bloc.

On May 3, Sadr received Interior Minister Qasim Mohammad Jalal al-Araji and Defense Minister Arfan al-Hayali. According to the statement issued by Sadr’s office, during the meeting Sadr offered some “valuable guidance in the best interest of the security forces and means to increase their effectiveness and close the gaps that might weaken them.”

It seems that the approaching elections and Sadr’s position regarding the HEC led some guests to address that subject. Sources in parliament told Al-Monitor that various blocs are looking for ways to satisfy Sadr and alleviate some of his pressure on them. The sources said now that Sadr and Abadi have discussed alternatives to dismissing HEC, parliament might not follow through on a threatened vote of no confidence on the commission.

Even Communist Party Secretary-General Raed Fahmi paid a visit to Sadr. Though Iraq’s Communist Party isn’t particularly influential, the meeting could produce a political alliance or a new protest tactic.

Despite his strong following, Sadr has received death threats. Araji said during a press conference held with Sadr and the defense minister that “the threats Sadr said he received are threats to all Iraqis.” The interior minister also relayed a message from Abadi, who is also commander in chief of the armed forces, that the “threats against Sadr will be taken into account.”

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