Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Iraq Situation Report: February 12 - 17, 2016

By Patrick Martin and ISW Iraq Team

Prime Minister Abadi is facing grave political challenges following his announcement of a cabinet reshuffle on February 9. Supporters of his past reform have stated that all positions should be open for consideration in a government, including that of the prime minister. In addition, Muqtada al-Sadr gave PM Abadi 45 days before he threatened to withdraw his support from PM Abadi’s government. Separately, PM Abadi stated that he was willing to resign as part of the reshuffle if necessary. The prime minister does not have the constitutional right or the power to undertake sweeping reforms of the government without support from the political blocs, which bodes ill for his ability to stay in office. PM Abadi’s removal would be highly problematic for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS Coalition, as he is a pro-Coalition figure that would likely be replaced by a leader far more willing to accept greater Iranian assistance. Meanwhile, the Popular Mobilization Commission stated that it had cut its ranks by 30 percent due to financial constraints, likely an attempt to access funding from the Iraqi government. Iranian proxy militias secure their funding from Iran and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), but a large number of other militia groups rely on funding from the Iraqi government, though they may also be competing for potential access to Iranian resources. If the announced cuts target Sunni tribal fighters in the Popular Mobilization and more nationalist groups not closely tied to Iran, it would make the Popular Mobilization even more difficult to include in future security operations due to their increasingly pro-Iranian slant.