By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai
It was not difficult to foresee Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi’s decision to abide by the unilateral US decision to impose sanctions on Iran. Nevertheless, as long as it was not official, it was possible to pretend it would not happen. But now Abadi himself is saying it loud and clear: I stand with US against Iran. This can mean only one thing: the Prime Minister is aware that he will not get a second term as PM.
Abadi’s Da’wa party, sympathisers and non-sympathisers with Iran alike, all condemned the Prime Minister’s decision to stop all purchase and exchange of US dollars with Iran, one of several US sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic. Moreover, the Iraqi government has decided to stop paying past due bills for electricity provided by Iran to several provinces in the south of the country. Electricity shortages in those regions are a primary cause of ongoing unrest in Iraq. That is not all: following Abadi’s decision and declaration to abide by US sanctions, Iranian member of parliament Mahmoud Sadeghi requested the repayment of $1.1 trillion in compensation by the Iraqi government for the War initiated by Saddam Hussein on the 22d of September 1980.
Abadi showed yet again his incapacity to take a clear-cut decision, an inability that has been evident in many areas of his governance. His official statement professed opposition to what he called strategic and mistaken sanctions, yet at the same time he declares his willingness to abide by them “to protect the interests of our (Iraqi) people.” People in Abadi’s inner circle say the Prime Minister “didn’t mean to declare economic war on Iran but finds it difficult to go against the US, mainly due to the need to rebuild the country with money from neighbouring countries that only the US can attract.”
US officials meet with Abadi on a regular basis at his office and in his house in the green zone of Baghdad, promising financial and political support from the oil-rich Gulf countries. The US and the Gulf countries would like to see Abadi win a second term; they have supported him and Moqtada al-Sadr in the hope they might form a new coalition government (165 MPs are needed.) Nevertheless, Moqtada has specified 40 conditions necessary for any new prime minister to enjoy his support: Abadi (of course) cannot meet them.
Many voices have been raised against Abadi’s positioning against Iran, accusing the Prime Minister of exceeding his authority and certainly not reflecting the will of the Iraqi people. Politicians say it is up to Parliament to decide whether or not to abide by the unilateral US sanctions. Abadi’s provocative behaviour shows he is fully aware that his days in government are numbered.
Iraqi decision makers in Baghdad are saying that “Abadi doesn’t enjoy the support of the Marjaiya because he is too weak. He is therefore unable to reliably offer the vital services necessary for rebuilding the entire infrastructure.”
“The Marjaiya– also the Da’wa party – is not supporting Abadi. Moreover, the various demonstrations in the country are a reaction to the incompetence of the government to deal with pressing issues and to respond to the demands of the people for the restoration of long-missing services and infrastructure. Also, Abadi is apparently unable to fire or put on trial those responsible for corruption within his government, and in particular those ministers who are members of the Da’wa party. And the Prime Minister is unable to attract a large enough coalition for his party to form a new government with the required number of MPs. Furthermore, the main Sunni groups, the Kurds, and key Shia parties absolutely don’t want Abadi for a second term. Iraqi officials say that Abadi is choosing to walk away from government in harmony with the West, rather than in conflict, just like his predecessor Nuri al-Maliki.
Haidar Abadi believes he is leaving power with a positive record of achievement related to the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS). However, it was only the Marjaiya – whose leader the Grand Ayatollah Sistani called for a general mobilisation – that saved Baghdad and inspired Iraqis to take up arms to stop and later defeat ISIS. The credit doesn’t belong to Abadi. Moreover, Iran was the first to quickly respond by sending weapons and advisors to support Baghdad and Erbil even as the Obama administration was permissively watching ISIS advance, with the apparent intention of seeing Mesopotamia divided into three countries: Kurdistan, Sunnistan and Shiistan.
Despite the lack of harmony between Iran and Abadi, no Shia in any official position was ever expected either to bow to Iran or to stand against it. Abadi seems to have decided to leave office as “a hero”, at least in US eyes, with a robust reputation as “the one who took a stand” against Tehran. This tactic will certainly lead him out of the green zone, and perhaps back to the UK where he might live peacefully as a holder of British nationality.
Proofreading by: Maurice Brasher