Monday, March 28, 2016

Iraq Situation Report: March 22 - 28, 2016

By Patrick Martin and ISW Iraq Team

Key Take-Away: Pressure continues to mount on Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to reshuffle the cabinet. Sadrist Trend leader Muqtada al-Sadr gave PM Abadi until March 26 to submit the list of nominations for the new cabinet to the Council of Representatives (CoR). However, discussions underway in the pan-Shi’a political body, the National Alliance, over what positions blocs will retain in the new government stalled the reshuffle process, and PM Abadi missed the deadline as a result. In response, Sadr initiated his own sit-in inside of a tent in the Green Zone on March 27 to pressure PM Abadi to conduct reforms, refusing to meet with politicians and government officials. Political blocs meanwhile have pressured PM Abadi to conduct reforms to their own preferences, seeking to preserve their positions and increase their representation within the cabinet. Groups like the Sunni Etihad and the Kurdistan Alliance refused to submit nominations for the new cabinet positions, citing concerns over the unclear selection process. Meanwhile, the National Alliance decided on March 27 to form a new sub-committee aimed at “advising” PM Abadi during the cabinet reshuffle process. However, the presence of Badr Organization leader Hadi al-Amiri and Popular Mobilization Commission Chairman Faleh al-Fayadh on the committee indicate that Iranian proxies are attempting to direct the final outcome of the cabinet reshuffle, an outcome that would undermine the U.S.’s ability to continue its advise-and-assist mission in Iraq and effectively combat ISIS. PM Abadi is being pulled in multiple directions by Sadr, pro-Iranian elements, and non-Shi’a political blocs in a way that makes it impossible to satisfy all parties involved. It is a distinct possibility that multiple political blocs will reject PM Abadi’s cabinet submission on Thursday, or that he may not be able to submit it at all, given the disparate demands of the political blocs. PM Abadi may thus face the real possibility of a questioning session and a subsequent vote of no-confidence if the reform process continues to stall.