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

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