Four months after Iraq held elections, a new government has yet to form as the majority Shia factions remain divided. Sarhang Hamasaeed discusses the complicated route to forming a government and the recent unrest in Basra aimed at the current government for its failure to provide electricity and other basic services.
Following the surprise win by controversial Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his Sairoon coalition in Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary elections, a new coalition government has yet to form. USIP’s Sarhang Hamasaeed analyzes what led to al-Sadr’s victory, low voter turnout at the polls, the state of the political process in Iraq, and Iraqis’ expectations for meaningful reform from the next government.
In recent weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqis in southern provinces of the country took to the streets to demand action over the lack of basic services and jobs. The protests began in the oil-rich Basra province, where people struggle with lack of clean water and electricity—amid temperatures exceeding 120 degrees—and economic injustice, among other challenges.
Before the war, Yemen was already the Arab world’s poorest country and nearly four years later more than three-quarters of the country’s population is in desperate need of aid and protection, with millions displaced. Further complicating the situation, the conflict has become another battleground in the regional Saudi-Iran power struggle. USIP’s Dr. Elie Abouaoun and Sarhang Hamasaeed analyze the multi-layered nature of the conflict, Yemen’s dire humanitarian situation and the prospects for peace.
In a surprise turn, preliminary results from Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary vote indicate that 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 Iraq prepares to vote on May 12, the public debate has been just a bit unusual. Following the country’s war against the Islamic State extremists, candidates are seeking votes with appeals across sectarian lines and more discussion of issues than in any other election campaign. This change is incremental but is one of several that make this a moment to step back and measure Iraq’s evolution since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Despite what Iraqis have suffered over 15 years—or perhaps because of it—the will to democratize is alive and growing. A real meaning of these elections is this: If the United States and the international community can sustain their engagement, Iraq has a chance to stabilize, and to turn back the inevitable future attempts to revive extremist violence.
Tehran’s interventions in conflicts throughout the Middle East have become a particular point of contention for detractors of the Iran Deal, which placed constraints on the country's nuclear program without addressing its role in Syria, Yemen, and across the region. There is no place Iranian influence has played a more conspicuous role than in neighboring Iraq.
An international conference opens in Kuwait Monday to plan ways to rebuild Iraq and secure it against renewed extremist violence following the three-year war against ISIS. A USIP team just spent nine days in Iraq for talks with government and civil society leaders, part of the Institute’s years-long effort to help the country stabilize. The Kuwait conference will gather government, business and civil society leaders to consider a reconstruction that Iraq has said could cost $100 billion. USIP’s president, Nancy Lindborg, and Middle East program director, Sarhang Hamasaeed, say any realistic rebuilding plan must focus also on the divisions and grievances in Iraq that led to ISIS’ violence and that still exist.
When Iraqis went to the polls on May 12, the country’s foreign policy was the last thing on their minds. For the vast majority, the central question about the next government was expressly local: Will it be able to deliver services, get the economy moving and, perhaps most important, curb corruption?
Sarhang Hamasaeed reviews a tense week in which the Iraqi Army and Kurdish forces clashed in the disputed area of Kirkuk. With ISIS driven out of Kirkuk, renewed tensions dating back to 2014 have re-emerged between the Iraqi Army and Popular Mobilization Forces Hamasaeed tells us why a political dialogue process is central to protecting minorities, and avoiding Shia and Sunni clashes.