Unlike previous premiers, he came to power not through the bargaining processes that typically follow Iraqi general elections but instead through a series of compromises among parties after the sitting prime minister resigned in the wake of popular protests demanding reform. While U.S. policymakers make ambitious demands of Kadhimi, they often fail to appreciate his circumstances. While Iraq’s paramilitaries pose a major problem for the government’s institutional development, the preferred U.S. approach is counterproductive. The June raid against Kataib Hezbollah made other paramilitary groups wary that they might, sooner or later, be targeted as well. While early elections were one of the protesters’ core demands, voices inside the movement say such a move would be premature without the conditions necessary to ensure a fair process. Paramilitaries in Iraq are not free-standing rogue agents, but units intertwined with numerous state institutions, and a campaign to purge them may well end up unraveling these institutions along the way. In addition, Kadhimi has no safety net that would allow him to take risks. The March 17 nomination of Adnan al-Zurfi as Iraq’s prime minister-designate highlights the extent to which Iran’s stranglehold on Iraqi politics could be eroding. Thus far, he has employed a media strategy to gain public support. Ultimately, this approach would help those parts of the security sector that follow a formal chain of command to develop and, gradually, outgrow those that do not—paving the way, over time, for a stronger Iraqi state. Maybe a Little Too Much. Today, neither exists. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. government has mounted an increasingly aggressive maximum pressure campaign against Iran, which is forcing Kadhimi to walk an even tighter diplomatic tightrope than his predecessors had to. Have a confidential tip for our reporters? The head of government will focus on combating a massive increase in COVID-19 cases and addressing the struggling economy in the Hashemite Kingdom. Instead, U.S. policymakers should focus their efforts on empowering the prime minster so he can better manage domestic pressures stemming from rival politicians and the public. Many plan to boycott the November election. His new ministry was once infiltrated by militia leaders who showed more loyalty to Soleimani and Iran than to Iraq. Tellingly, when U.S. policymakers lobbied Iraqi politicians to signal public support for the raid against Kataib Hezbollah, they declined. Kadhimi’s platform explicitly calls for reform of the Interior Ministry, whose forces coordinated with Iranian-backed militias to violently disperse recent peaceful protests against Iranian influence. A permanent settlement between Baghdad and Erbil, especially on budget allocation, is crucial to assure Kurdish leaders that Kadhimi can be a reliable partner. In Washington, senior U.S. policymakers have long insisted that Baghdad adopt tougher measures to rein in the paramilitary groups—a demand on which Kadhimi’s predecessor, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who was denied a meeting with Trump, failed to deliver. Thousands of paramilitaries are now positioned inside the International Zone. Some Jordanians are dissatisfied with the historically high unemployment and the government’s handling of the crisis. In Iraq, the United States Must Be Careful... Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s credibility was at stake when he visited Washington last week. At the same time, Soleimani’s death was a factor. Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to the post of transitional prime minister is the latest and most profound. It says Iraq will not allow “its territories to be used as a base for launching aggression against any of its neighbors and will not become a battlefield for regional and international conflicts.” At the same time, it indirectly says it will not allow Iran to manage its relationship with Iraq the way it did in the Soleimani years: “As far as foreign relations are concerned, the state shall communicate with official institutions only, and according to the international diplomatic norms, and not with individuals or non-official entities.”. Joe Biden Would Be a Sea Change For the Oil Industry, Trump Can’t Ignore the Election Results Without a Lot of Help, Music Lessons Are the Best Investment for Your Kids. They are unlikely to be able to compete in the early elections that Kadhimi has proposed for June 6, 2021, nearly a year ahead of schedule. Lahib Higel is the senior analyst for Iraq at the International Crisis Group Twitter: @LahibHigel, Ramzy Mardini is an associate at the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts at the University of Chicago Twitter: @RamzyMardini, U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to the White House Aug. 20, In Iraq, the United States Must Be Careful What It Wishes For. Washington should help Kadhimi widen and strengthen his political coalition. Then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meet in Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 20, 2019. © 2020 Al-Monitor, LLC. All rights reserved. Iraq’s new interim prime minister has pledged to take on corruption and Iranian influence. Nationwide protests against corruption and Iranian influence, as well as internal strife within and among Iranian-backed militias, helped Kadhimi’s rise. Since his death, he says, Iran’s position in Iraq has weakened even further. Following the June 25 raid, the Shiite Hikma party exposed the weakness of Kadhimi’s support when it tried to form a parliamentary bloc buttressing his government’s position.
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