The stage is set for political turmoil in Iraq as 73 lawmakers from the nation’s largest political bloc resigned on Sunday, just eight months after winning the last general election with 83 out of 329 parliamentary seats.
The resignation of the lawyers, affiliated with the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, is expected to push Iraq into a new political crisis. Al-Sadr reportedly ordered the mass resignations as a protest against the continual political deadlock following the 2021 election. And while this latest political move may inspire rival factions, such as Sunni, to step up and attempt to form an alternative government, the unrest will almost certainly benefit one external power, Iran.
Due to the political success of al-Sadr in last year’s election, Iran-backed Shiite rivals lost approximately two-thirds – almost 65% – of their parliamentary seats. Iraqi law stipulates that when lawmakers resign from parliament, their seats are to be distributed to the runner-up parties, implying that Iran’s Sunni influence in Iraq will likely grow considerably.
Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, a Sunni politician, accepted the mass resignations but stressed that the ultimate goal should be the establishment of a responsible government.
“The political blockage will not continue. We seek to form a government that will bear the responsibility of the political blocs for its success and failure,” said al-Halbousi. However, he admitted that there will still be challenges in the process of forming a new Iraqi government.
“The option of dissolving the parliament and organizing another early election is constitutional … but so far this option has not been raised,” said al-Halbousi.
While the Iraqi political system will likely remain fractured and divided on several key issues, there appears to be a wide consensus on one issue: Opposition to normalizing political ties with Israel.
In late May, the Iraqi parliament unanimously approved a controversial law that criminalizes any relations with Israel and Israelis.
Al-Sadr, who played an instrumental role behind the parliamentary initiative, praised its outcome.
“Praise be to God, who has let down the Israeli terrorists,” he tweeted.
“I invite you to pray to thank God, and then take to the streets to celebrate this great achievement,” added the Shiite politician and military leader.
Despite a large number of disagreements regarding domestic Iraqi politics, al-Sadr’s Iranian-backed political rivals are in full agreement about opposing the Abraham Accords and normalizing relations with Israel.
Qais al-Khazali, the head of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, an influential rival Iranian-backed Shiite armed faction, strongly supported al-Sadr’s praise of the anti-Israel legislation.
“At a time when some Arab governments are racing to normalise with the Zionist entity, here is our distinguished parliament, legislating its law… against the usurping entity and against normalisation with it,” Khazali said.
While the late Sunni Muslim leader Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq for decades, Shiite Muslims constitute more than half of Iraqi’s total population. The Shiite Iranian regime has consequently succeeded to increase its influence in Iraq, especially in recent years following the gradual exit of the United States from Iraq and the wider Middle East region.
The existing cold war between the Sunni Arab world – led by Saudi Arabia – and Shiite Iran, has caused Iraq to discover itself in the political orbit of the Iranian ayatollah regime because of the growing Iraqi Shiite majority.
Iraq and Iran recently signed a historic tourism agreement, effectively ending much of the enmity that existed between the two countries under the former Saddam Hussein regime.
Iranian Tourism Minister Ezzatollah Zarghami and Iraq’s Tourism Minister Hassan Nazem signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in Tehran. The bilateral agreement will focus on religious tourism, the construction of hotels, and investments in the tourism sector of the two countries.