Meet the big winner in Iraq’s election: Iran

To the casual observer, Iraq’s post-electoral political process might appear to be deadlocked or moving at a snail’s pace. Although international observers validated the results of the March 7 election as largely free and fair, the outcome has been subjected to a series of ill-natured legal challenges. This will complicate the already daunting challenge of ...

ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images
ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images
ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images

To the casual observer, Iraq's post-electoral political process might appear to be deadlocked or moving at a snail's pace. Although international observers validated the results of the March 7 election as largely free and fair, the outcome has been subjected to a series of ill-natured legal challenges. This will complicate the already daunting challenge of forming a coalition government from the alphabet soup of more than three dozen major political parties. Despite movement toward a coalition of the two main Shiite blocs, many obstacles still need to be overcome before a new government can form.

Those who follow Iraq closely count upon Iraqi politicians to play out their brinkmanship until the last moment possible, which is usually long after foreign-influenced deadlines have expired. Meanwhile, far from being at a standstill, critical political battles are being won and lost on a daily basis. The ongoing recount of 2.4 million votes in Baghdad and the saga of de-Baathification against electoral candidates are not merely disconcerting speed bumps on the road to government formation; they are signposts toward the kind of government that is inexorably emerging from within smoke-filled rooms. If current trends persist, the next Iraqi government will sideline Iraq's Sunni Arab population, lack the cohesion required to govern effectively, and will be the ideal environment for Iran to peddle its influence in the aftermath of the U.S. military withdrawal.

Read more.

To the casual observer, Iraq’s post-electoral political process might appear to be deadlocked or moving at a snail’s pace. Although international observers validated the results of the March 7 election as largely free and fair, the outcome has been subjected to a series of ill-natured legal challenges. This will complicate the already daunting challenge of forming a coalition government from the alphabet soup of more than three dozen major political parties. Despite movement toward a coalition of the two main Shiite blocs, many obstacles still need to be overcome before a new government can form.

Those who follow Iraq closely count upon Iraqi politicians to play out their brinkmanship until the last moment possible, which is usually long after foreign-influenced deadlines have expired. Meanwhile, far from being at a standstill, critical political battles are being won and lost on a daily basis. The ongoing recount of 2.4 million votes in Baghdad and the saga of de-Baathification against electoral candidates are not merely disconcerting speed bumps on the road to government formation; they are signposts toward the kind of government that is inexorably emerging from within smoke-filled rooms. If current trends persist, the next Iraqi government will sideline Iraq’s Sunni Arab population, lack the cohesion required to govern effectively, and will be the ideal environment for Iran to peddle its influence in the aftermath of the U.S. military withdrawal.

Read more.

Michael Knights is a Lafer fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He travels regularly
to Iraq and has written a number of books and reports on the country's security and politics, most recently The Iraqi Security Forces: Local Context and U.S. Assistance.

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