On May 12, Iraqis went to the polls to elect a new national parliament. In a surprise turn, a coalition led by controversial cleric Moqtada al-Sadr—a staunch opponent of both U.S. and Iranian influence in Iraq—won the most seats, as incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s coalition came in third. While the election campaign saw Iraqis turn toward a focus on issues and away from sectarianism, low turnout figures demonstrate that many are disenchanted with the political system.

This was the fourth election since the fall of Saddam Hussein, but the first since the military rollback of the Islamic State-declared caliphate. The country's new leaders will be faced with the challenge of rebuilding, stabilizing, and healing their country as the United States and the West continue to decrease their military presence.

On May 21 there was a provocative town hall debate with foreign policy experts Kenneth Pollack, from the American Enterprise Institute, the National Defense University’s Denise Natali, and USIP's Sarhang Hamasaeed, moderated by Joshua Johnson of the public radio program 1A. The discussion focused on how Iraq’s leaders can overcome years of sectarian violence and find unity, as well as what a future alliance with the West may look like.

This event was live-taped for future broadcast on Public Radio International's America Abroad and WAMU's 1A.

Review the event with the hashtag #IraqsNextStep.

Speakers

Joshua Johnson, Moderator
Host, NPR's 1A
@jejohnson322

Sarhang Hamasaeed
Director, Middle East Programs, U.S. Institute of Peace
@sarhangsalar

Denise Natali
Director, Center for Strategic Research, National Defense University
@dnataliDC

Kenneth Pollack
Resident Scholar, U.S.-Middle East Security and Foreign Policies, American Enterprise Institute

Related Publications

A Year After Elections, Iraq May Finally Be Set to Form a Government

A Year After Elections, Iraq May Finally Be Set to Form a Government

Thursday, October 20, 2022

By: Sarhang Hamasaeed

Iraq hit two anniversaries this month. Three years ago in October, Iraqis rose up to protest the failure of the Iraqi government and political class in delivering basic services, providing jobs, fighting corruption and more. One of the outcomes of those protests was early elections, which were held on October 10, 2021, but have yet to yield a government. The last year witnessed crippling political gridlock, as the winner of the 2021 national parliamentary elections, Moqtada al-Sadr, eventually withdrew from the political process after failing to form a government.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

The Latest @ USIP: Iraq’s Immense Climate Challenges

The Latest @ USIP: Iraq’s Immense Climate Challenges

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

By: Zena Ali Ahmed

Iraq is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. Amid a protracted political crisis, sweltering temperatures, water scarcity and other climate-related challenges threaten the country’s stability and add to Iraqis’ grievances. Zena Ali Ahmad, the United Nations Development Program’s resident representative in Iraq, analyzes how climate change impacts Iraq and its stability and discusses solutions to address these impacts.

Type: Blog

Environment

Sarhang Hamasaeed on Iraq’s Deepening Political Stalemate

Sarhang Hamasaeed on Iraq’s Deepening Political Stalemate

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

By: Sarhang Hamasaeed

After recent episodes of violence, Iraq’s political stalemate continues. “Bottom line … this is a fight over power” and differing views on foreign influence, says USIP’s Sarhang Hamasaeed. “The Iraqi people are actually fighting for democracy. It is just the political class … that makes that a longer fight.”

Type: Podcast

What’s Behind Moqtada al-Sadr’s Bid to Shake up Iraq’s Politics?

What’s Behind Moqtada al-Sadr’s Bid to Shake up Iraq’s Politics?

Thursday, August 4, 2022

By: Sarhang Hamasaeed

Over the weekend, followers of the powerful Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed and occupied Iraq’s parliament in protest over a rival bloc attempting to form a government. The move comes less than two months after al-Sadr’s bloc in parliament resigned after its failure to form a majoritarian government following its victory in the October 2021 elections. Nearly 10 months after those elections, there is still no new government and the stability of the country is at stake as this showdown between al-Sadr’s supporters and his political rivals continues to play out.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

View All Publications