Iraq’s Most Powerful Politician Just Caused a ‘Tectonic Shift’

The resignation of Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, led by an entire group of 73 MPs, is the biggest realignment in Iraqi politics since Iranian-backed Shiite blocs gave way to the Asadrists in October elections. The Sadrists now seem to have moved away from parliamentary politics.

“This is a tectonic shift that threatens to completely disrupt the post-2003 political order,” said Ranj Alaaldin, visiting fellow for the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, DC.

In a handwritten statement, Sadr said his request for his legislators to resign was “my sacrifice for the country and people to save them from an unknown fate.”

Sajjad Jiyad, a fellow at The Century Foundation think tank in Washington, D.C., said the move “changed the political discourse.”

The priest is extremely popular in Iraq. For years he has positioned himself against both Iran and the United States, and in October became the biggest winner in a parliamentary election that threatened to upstage the Iran-aligned Shiite blocs that have long dominated the politics of the oil-rich country.

But since then, politics has stalled as controversy and allegations of corruption stalled presidential elections and prevented the formation of a government.

“If the remaining block of Sadrov [in parliament] is an obstacle to the formation of a government, then all the deputies of the bloc are ready to leave parliament with honor,” Sadr said in a televised speech on Thursday, setting the stage for his resignation.

Experts say that according to the procedure, after an MP resigns and the process is completed, the next MP with the most votes replaces him.

“This will result in a redistribution of 73 parliamentary seats among different political blocs,” Abbas Kadhim, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, tweeted, adding that the seats are expected to be filled by Iran-linked Shiites, along with some independents. .

So is Sadr succumbing to Iranian-backed groups, or is this just an attempt to project his power on the streets where he wields enormous influence? According to analysts, most likely the latter.

“Sadr’s secret weapon is his vast network of supporters and dominance on the streets,” Alaaldin said, adding that “the departure of Sadr deputies is a signal of intent to confront his rivals on the street.”

The resignation came after Iranian-linked Shia blocs opposed Sadr’s government-forming initiative, said Ihsan al-Shammari, a professor of politics at Baghdad University and head of the Iraqi Center for Political Thought. It also happens when Sadr realizes that he cannot create a national majority government with obstruction from a rival bloc.

Sadr may be signaling to his supporters that he has done his best to try and form a government with his Iran-linked Shia rivals, Jiyad said. The move could also pose a threat to other parties, showing them they can’t do without it, he added.

According to Al-Shammari, the influence of the cleric has not diminished far. “Sadr will continue to move towards the popular opposition … I think [this] double his political power.”

Analysts say that removing Sadr and his party from government will lead to chaos, and that any government born out of Sadr’s isolation “will be dead.”

“This will anger the Iraqis and Sadr’s supporters,” al-Shammari said. “They will not agree to see their leader politically broken or isolated.”

Digest

Iran and Venezuela, under US sanctions, signed a cooperation agreement for 20 years

Iran and Venezuela signed a 20-year cooperation plan in Tehran on Saturday, with the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader saying the two allies will continue to resist pressure from Washington.

  • Background: The plan includes expanding cooperation in the oil, petrochemical, defense, agriculture and tourism sectors. The signing was watched by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro in northern Tehran. Maduro also revealed that the weekly flight from Caracas to Tehran would begin on July 18.
  • Why is it important: Two oil producers are under heavy US sanctions. Ties between the two are deepening, especially in their oil sectors, in what Iran says is resistance to US pressure.

UAE bans ‘Lightyear’ film due to content violation

The United Arab Emirates on Monday banned the public screening of Walt Disney and Pixar’s animated film Lightyear in theaters ahead of its release this week, a government body said. The Media Regulatory Authority of the Ministry of Youth and Culture tweeted that the film violates the country’s media content standards, without specifying the violation.

  • Background: The film reportedly involves a same-sex kiss between two women in a relationship. As in many other countries in the Middle East, same-sex relationships are criminalized in the UAE. The film, dedicated to the figure of Buzz Lightyear from the popular Toy Story franchise, has already been announced for release in the UAE on June 16th.
  • Why is it important: In the past, the UAE has avoided joining neighboring Arab countries in banning gay films. Recently, censors in Arab countries have banned such films as production studios refuse to accept edited versions. Films like The Eternals and Doctor Strange 2 were banned this year in several Arab countries, but not in the UAE.

NATO chief says Turkey’s security concerns are legitimate

The security concerns raised by Turkey over Finland and Sweden’s announcement of NATO membership are legitimate, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday during a visit to Finland. “We must remember and understand that none of the NATO allies has suffered more from terrorist attacks than Turkey,” Stoltenberg said.

  • Background: Sweden and Finland last month said they intended to join a Western defense alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But they have faced opposition from Turkey, which has accused them of supporting and harboring Kurdish fighters and other groups it considers terrorists.
  • Why is it important: Despite being a member of NATO, Turkey maintains close ties with Moscow while it is at war with Ukraine. All member countries must approve the new members of the NATO military alliance.

By region

A 98-million-year-old fossil discovered in the Egyptian desert six years ago has turned out to be a new species of large, carnivorous dinosaur.

An expedition team from Egypt’s Mansour University discovered the fossil in the Bahariya Oasis in the country’s Western Desert region in 2016. In a study published by the Royal Society of Great Britain on Wednesday, the fossil was identified as “the oldest accurate record of a hoard from Egypt and Northeast Africa”.

The species, which has yet to be given a name, belongs to a family of dinosaurs called Abelisauridae, described by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History as “a sort of small-toothed, bulldog-faced theropod estimated to have been approximately six meters (20 feet) in body length.” .

“The Bahariya Oasis would be one of the most terrifying places on the planet … how all these huge predators managed to coexist remains a mystery,” said study leader Belal Salem, quoted by the Carnegie Museum.

The oasis is a goldmine for paleontologists due to the variety of fossils found there. Unfortunately, all the fossils collected there before World War II were destroyed. In 1944, a collection of fossils discovered by the German paleontologist Ernst Stromer was destroyed by Allied bombs that hit the building that housed the collection in Munich.

Mohammed Abdelbari

Photo of the day

Sheep are rescued June 12 after a ship full of thousands of animals sank in Sudan's Red Sea port of Suakin, drowning most of the animals on board.  A livestock vessel was exporting animals from Sudan to Saudi Arabia when it sank after being loaded with several thousand more animals than expected.

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