Iraq’s New Government Puts Iran-Backed Militias in the Driver’s Seat

Iraq’s New Government Puts Iran-Backed Militias in the Driver’s Seat
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani speaks during the parliamentary session to vote on the new government in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 27, 2022 (photo by the Iraqi Parliament Media Office via AP).

Iraq’s parliament approved a new government last week, bringing an end to the year-long political deadlock that followed the country’s 2021 parliamentary elections. Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, who previously served as Iraq’s human rights minister as well as labor and social affairs minister, will head the new government, which replaces the caretaker Cabinet led by Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Al-Sudani was backed by the Coordination Framework, a political coalition dominated by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as well as parties representing Iran-backed Shiite militias.

The new government in Baghdad has nevertheless been welcomed by Iraq’s international partners, including the U.S., the U.K., the United Nations and Saudi Arabia. But despite last week’s breakthrough, which put an end to months of political infighting that paralyzed governance in the country, the composition of Iraq’s new government and the broader context within which it will be forced to operate suggest that Iraq’s deep-seated challenges have not abated.

Unlike its predecessor government, there are no ministers from the Sadrist movement in the new Cabinet. After winning the single largest number of seats in last year’s parliamentary elections, albeit shy of a majority, Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement aimed to install a Cabinet dominated by its members and allies. But his effort to do so was blocked by his political opponents, who sought to maintain the practice of power-sharing along sectarian lines, known as the muhasasa system.

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