Friday, January 31, 2020

Vladimir Putin's Staged Power Play

By: Nataliya Bugayova

Key Takeaway: Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a new phase in his campaign to retain power after 2024 when his current term expires. Putin offered Russians a revised social contract. Putin is reconfiguring the balance of power within the Russian government as he seeks to carve out an optimal spot for himself. Putin is in uncharted territory, trying to create a new transition model for Russia. He is running an information operation targeting the Russian population and the West as he seeks to mitigate the risks associated with his transition. His approach is working so far, with the Kremlin’s opposition disarmed and the public unclear on the net implications of the changes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun a new phase in his campaign to retain power when his current presidential term expires in 2024. Putin announced a major set of political changes inside Russia in January 2020. He reorganized Russia’s government, proposed major changes to the Russian constitution, and pledged significant social spending.[1] Putin’s decision to put forward these changes was not a surprise. Putin and his associates have primed the information space with the idea of constitutional change, and set conditions for a 2024 transition more broadly, over the past several years.[2]  

The significance of the new announcements lies in the process, substance, and the context in which Putin made his power move.

Putin’s proposed changes offered Russia’s population a revised social contract. He promised increased social spending and announced measures that further strengthen the Kremlin’s centralized powers. This premise is not fundamentally new, but the adjustment is nevertheless key for Putin given that his popular support—bolstered by his illegal occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and other interventions beyond Russia’s borders—has been waning over the past few years.[3]
  1. The ‘Benefits’ – Putin pledged increased government support for programs to improve education and increased population growth. He focused most of his January 15 annual speech addressing the Russian population’s demands for improved quality of life. Putin also likely intended to shift the blame for failed economic reforms of recent years to former Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev by reshuffling the cabinet.[4] Putin appointed Mikhail Mishustin, formerly head of Russia’s federal tax service, as Russia’s new prime minister in part to signal his commitment to putting fresh energy behind his agenda.[5]
  2.  The Cost – Putin combined these pledges with policies and constitutional amendments that will further limit civil liberties in Russia as well as isolate Russia from the international community. Putin intends to formalize the primacy of the Russian constitution over international law. Putin likely seeks to provide the Kremlin with the freedom to disregard decisions by international organizations, such the European Court of Human Rights. Putin is also likely trying to further limit the potential for credible political opposition to his rule, which is nearly nonexistent today. For example, the state will disqualify individuals who have lived outside Russia in the past 25 years or have obtained foreign residency from running for president. Further, one of Mishustin’s first moves as prime minister was to introduce bonuses for members of the security services, such as the Russian National Guard, who work to “keep order” at protests and other public events. This measure indicates that the security services will remain a core pillar of Putin’s regime.[6] Putin’s changes also extend the federal government’s power further down into the regional level. Regional legislatures will now largely lose their authority to influence appointments of regional prosecutors.
Most of Putin’s constitutional amendments are aimed at changing the relative power of the branches of Russia’s government as Putin carves out a place for himself post-2024. Putin’s proposed amendments will nominally increase the Russian parliament’s powers, though the actual realignment depends on the final amendments and other supplemental federal laws.[7] The presidency remains strong, though Putin limited future presidents to two terms total, ensuring there will not be another Putin (who is serving his fourth term).[8] One of the most significant changes is Putin’s proposal to give the State Council—currently an advisory body of regional leaders—the constitutional authority to govern. This change introduces a new variable into Russia’s political equation. 

Putin may be creating a specific role for himself, such as the head of an empowered State Council, or seeking a combination of roles. The key issue, however, will be the overall new political configuration, not the technical nature of Putin’s specific role. This configuration will greatly depend on the final content of Putin’s changes which are currently unknown – likely by design.

Putin is in uncharted territory with a set of conflicting objectives. Putin chose not to remove term limits on the presidency, which would have been a damaging but not impossible political move allowing him to remain as president beyond 2024. Putin is thus faced with the task of inventing a new succession model.

Putin seeks to balance a set of objectives. He likely seeks to preserve power post-2024, as it is essential to his security and his legacy. Putin is also trying to preserve, at least notionally, a strong Russian head of state. Putin’s view that Russia can only survive with a centralized government has remained consistent for the last two decades. Putin wrote in 2000 that “strong government is not an anomaly for Russians, but a guarantor of order.” [9] Putin stated in January 2020 that Russia requires a strong presidential republic and that creating any institute above the head of the state would mean “dual power” and will be “absolutely harmful for a country like Russia.”[10]

Putin’s campaign thus has a number of vulnerabilities. Putin will be testing the limits of informal power structures in Russia if he tries to preserve power outside of the presidency. The key question will be whether Putin can over the long run, maintain a positive public perception of his legitimacy and power. Another core question is whether Putin can find a way to control indirectly Russia’s security services – currently a key pillar of his regime – when Putin is no longer president.

Putin is using a carefully crafted approach, which is effectively an information operation, to roll out his plan. Putin is revealing the substance of the government changes in a controlled manner. He shared the contours of his changes, but the final details will be determined gradually through further refinements and additional laws. The exact powers of the State Council are still undetermined, for example. The exact process by which the Russian people will express their degree of support for these changes is also unclear.

Putin is moving rapidly to implement the changes. Putin announced and received approval from the State Duma (the lower house of the Russian parliament) for his changes within two weeks, providing little room for a genuine discussion of the changes.

Putin is thus showing the public at home and abroad what he wants at the pace he wants. Putin is both trying to disarm any potential opposition to this process while protecting himself against the vulnerabilities inherent in a power play. He also seeks to keep his options open and preserve the ability to shift course as he gauges the initial reaction to his move.

Putin has also launched this phase four years before his current term expires. He is likely choosing to push through the changes while his ratings are relatively high so that he can secure public approval for his plan. He also chose a moment just months after he brutally, and effectively, suppressed an emerging wave of protests against the Kremlin’s efforts to prevent anti-Kremlin candidates from running in Russia’s local elections.[11] He also likely expects to boost his public approval by increased social spending.

Putin’s tactics are working so far. His power structures are rapidly advancing Putin’s changes. He is also successfully disarming the opposition. Putin made some of his proposed changes seem democratic on the surface – which is not a given because of the simple fact that the final content and configuration is not yet public. The protests against Putin’s changes were weak.[12] Finally, Putin’s pledge to increase social spending paired with a cabinet reshuffle taps into widespread calls for change and increased quality of living – helping both obfuscate Putin’s intentions of staying in power and disincentivizing protests.


The Duma approved Putin’s proposed amendments on January 23 – just a week after Putin’s announcement.[13] A governmental commission is currently considering proposals for additional amendments to the constitution.[14] Russia’s parliament will likely vote on the revised draft on February 11.[15] Putin is also framing these changes as a societal choice, pledging that the constitutional changes will be subject to a popular referendum. The Kremlin has not yet revealed a process for such a referendum.

Key Questions

  • Immediate: What will the final changes entail? What do these changes do to the absolute and relative power of each government body? How will the changes be passed? What will the new status and role of the State Council be?
  • Long Term: What will be the design of the overall power structures? What are the sources of power that Putin needs to maintain as the situation evolves? What is the most optimal position(s) for him to land? How will Putin’s base – his voters and his power structures – react as he further unfolds his plan? How will Putin address the inherent vulnerabilities of his transition, such as the risk of a growing perception that he is losing power or control over security?

[1] [“Message from the President to the Federal Assembly,”] Kremlin, January 15, 2020, http://kremlin(.)ru/events/president/news/62582; [“Decrees on the Appointment of Ministers of the Government of the Russian Federation were Signed,”] Kremlin, January 21, 2020, http://kremlin(.)ru/events/president/news/62625; [“Decrees on the First Deputy and Deputy Prime Ministers were Signed,”] Kremlin, January 21, 2020, http://kremlin(.)ru/events/president/news/62623.
[2] Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Duma, advocated expanding the Duma’s authority through a constitutional change in July 2019 [“ Volodin Proposed to Change the Constitution Again to Include the Duma in the Formation of the Government,”] Novaya Gazeta, July 17, 2019, https://www.novayagazeta(.)ru/news/2019/07/17/153399-volodin-predlozhil-zafiksirovat-v-konstitutsii-uchastie-gosdumy-v-formirovanii-pravitelstva; Putin called the Russian constitution a “living organism” in 2018. [“Putin: The Constitution of the Russian Federation is a living, developing organism that is the Foundation of the Legal System,”] TASS, December 12, 2018, https(:)//
[3] “Trust in Russia’s Putin falls to 13-year low: state pollster,” Reuters, January 21, 2019,
[4] Leonid Bershidsky, “Why Russia Is Struggling to Build Putin’s Grand Dream,” Bloomberg, November 15, 2019,; Putin transferred Medvedev into a newly created role of a deputy head of Russia’s National Security Council. Medvedev’s dismissal likely serves a dual purpose: shifting blame from Putin with regard to the failed economic reforms, while also indicating Putin’s potential intent to strengthen Russia’s National Security Council. Putin also made Mishustin a permanent member of Russia’s National Security Council.
[5] [“Mishustin Presented His Prime Minister Agenda to the State Duma. The Main Thing,”] RBK, January 16, 2020, https://www(.) ; [“Mishustin Outlined the Main Tasks and Priorities in the Work of the New Cabinet,”] Sputnik, January 21, 2020, https:\sputnik(.)by\politics\20200121\1043748961\Mishustin-oboznachil-osnovnye-zadachi-i-prioritety-raboty-novogo-kabmina.html.
[6] [“Monthly Salary Increases were Established for the Complexity of the Tasks Performed by Employees of Internal Affairs Organs, Military personnel and Employees of the Russian Guard,”] Russian Cabinet of Ministers, January 24, 2020, http://government(.)ru/docs/38839/; “[Mishustin Introduced Bonuses for Employees of the Russian National Guard working at Protests],” Vedomosti, January 24, 2020, https://www.vedomosti(.)ru/politics/news/2020/01/24/821435-mishustin-vvel-nadbavku; “Russian Prime Minister Orders Special Category of Security Officers to be Eligible for up to Double Pay for ‘Complex’ Work,” Meduza, January 24, 2020, https://meduza(.)io/en/news/2020/01/24/russian-prime-minister-orders-special-category-of-security-officers-to-be-eligible-for-up-to-double-pay-for-complex-work.
[7] The Duma (lower house) will have authority to approve the prime minister. Currently the president appoints the prime minster while the parliament can advise. The president will have no authority to refuse parliament's nomination of the prime minister. The president would also have to consult with the Federation Council (upper house of parliament) to appoint the heads of Russia's security services and regional prosecutors.
[8] Putin said that it is essential that Russia remains a strong presidential state. The president might have less
authority over the cabinet of ministers, though the final text of the amendment is to be determined. At the same time,
the president gets additional powers, including the ability to request the Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality of the bill before resident’s signs the bill.
[9] Vladimir Putin, [“Russia at the Turn of the Millennium,”] Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 30, 1999, html.
[10] [“The President Met with Students and Faculty of Leading Universities at the Sirius Center,”] Pervy Kanal, January 22, 2020, https://www.1tv(.)ru/news/2020-01-22/379270-prezident_v_tsentre_sirius_vstretilsya_so_studentami_veduschih_vuzov_i_prepodavatelyami.
[11] Nataliya Bugayova, Darina Regio, Mason Clark, and Michaela Walker with Alexandra McClintock, “Russia in Review: Domestic Discontent and Foreign Policy,” Institute for the Study of War, August 6, 2019,
[12] Matthew Luxmore, “WHY SO FEW PROTESTS AGAINST Putin’s Constitutional Shake up,” RFERL, January 28, 2020,
[13] Nataliya Vasilyeva, “Russian Parliament Gives Early Approval to Putin’s Constitutional Amendments Ahead of Referendum,” The Telegraph, January 23, 2020,; [“The Law of the Russian Federation on the Amendment to the Constitution of the Russian Federation ‘On Improving the Regulation of Certain Issues of Public Authority Organization,’”] Russian Duma’s Legislative Support System, Accessed on January 30, 2020,
[14] Tom Balmforth and Andrew Osborn, “”Supreme Ruler Putin? Kremlin Non-Committal on Proposed New Job Description,” Reuters, January 29, 2020,
[15] “Russia's Duma Unanimously Approves Putin's Constitution Shake-Up,” Al Jazeera, January 23, 2020, https://www.aljazeera(.)com/news/2020/01/russia-duma-unanimously-approves-putin-constitution-shake-200123120220504.html.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Europe Cedes Opportunity in Russia-Ukraine Energy Deal

Russia in Review is a weekly intelligence summary (INTSUM) produced by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). This ISW INTSUM series sheds light on key trends and developments related to the Russian government’s objectives and its efforts to secure them. Receive future Russia in Review INTSUM products via-email by signing up for the ISW mailing list.

Authors: George Barros and Nataliya Bugayova

Key Takeaway: Europe missed an opportunity to counter Russia in late 2019 in allowing the Kremlin to pressure Ukraine into an unfavorable gas deal. The Kremlin secured an energy deal with Ukraine, largely on its terms, despite a relatively weak negotiating hand. The deal provides Ukraine short-term financial benefits but strips Ukraine of its leverage against Russia in the long run. Russia likely diluted Ukraine’s leverage by linking energy issues with “peace talks” – a scenario ISW forecasted.[1] The Kremlin avoided reputational and financial losses, and freed resources to focus on the future stages of its campaigns in Ukraine and elsewhere. The West continues to cede the leverage it has with Russia because it compartmentalizes its approach – in this case by approaching an energy issue as distinct from the Kremlin’s larger campaign in Ukraine and Europe more broadly.

Russia faced potential setbacks to its geopolitical influence in Europe and its financial position in late 2019. The contract enabling Russia to sell gas to Europe via Ukraine was set to expire on December 31, 2019.[2] The Kremlin and Ukraine’s government were in deadlocked negotiations regarding the contract’s extension. The Kremlin demanded, among other things, that Ukraine drop all international arbitration claims against Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas company, for its previous contract breaches and abusive monopolistic tactics.[3] Ukraine signaled that it was willing to let the contract expire rather than renew it on the Kremlin’s exploitative terms.[4]

The Kremlin had a weakened position in the late 2019 energy negotiations with Ukraine.
  • Ukraine had the ability and willingness to hold out for and demand a fair deal. Ukraine’s state-owned gas company, Naftogaz, entered final negotiations with Gazprom in the fall of 2019 holding, arguably, one of the strongest positions on Russian gas it ever had. Ukraine has diligently worked to reduce its dependence on Russian gas and reform its energy sector over the last five years. Ukraine ceased importing Russian gas for domestic consumption and increased its gas reserves.[5] Naftogaz won $3 billion in arbitration claims against Gazprom and had an additional estimated $20 billion in outstanding claims – a long-term form of leverage that Gazprom insisted Ukraine surrender. Ukraine was also prepared to forgo an unfavorable deal with Russia and manage the fallout. Naftogaz leaders asserted on November 18 that the nullification of Ukraine’s claims against Russia were “not economically feasible.”[6] Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk said on December 10 that Ukraine is ready for a “gas war” with Russia.[7] Naftogaz’s Supervisory Board approved a draft financial plan in December for 2020 predicting revenue losses due to a contract non-renewal.[8]
  • Some European states were preparing contingencies in the event that Russia and Ukraine failed to sign a new deal. Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia confirmed that they were preparing for a potential gas shutoff.[9] Moldova signed an agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in December 2019 to finance contingency plans for alternative gas purchases from Ukraine in the event of a shutoff.[10]
  • A halt to Russian gas sales to Europe would have temporarily set back multiple Kremlin campaigns. A gas shutoff would have decreased Russia’s revenues and damaged its reputation by limiting Russia’s reliability in exporting gas to European clients. The Kremlin was vulnerable at the time due to construction delays on the Nord Stream 2 and Turk Stream 2 gas pipelines, which the Kremlin is building to diversify its energy transit options to Europe, deepen its influence within the European Union, and bypass Ukraine’s gas transit system.[11] A gas shutoff would have also challenged Russia’s promise to deliver discounted gas to Moldova – one of the Kremlin’s enticements for the new government in Moldova, where Russia is regaining influence after three years of setbacks.[12]
The Kremlin nevertheless succeeded in securing a new transit contract with Ukraine on December 31. Ukrainian officials reversed their positions and “agreed in principle” to sign a contract on December 19.[13] Russia and Ukraine renewed the contract within the Kremlin-preferred timeframe, and largely on the Kremlin’s terms, on December 31.[14]

The contract provides limited short-term benefits to Ukraine but strips Ukraine of long-term leverage. Russia’s main “concession” was a $3 billion payment to Ukraine in accordance with two rulings from the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce that Russia previously refused to pay.[15] Ukraine may have been able to recover some or all of this claim via seizures of Gazprom’s assets in Europe, which would have taken time.[16] The new contract also reportedly obliges Gazprom to pay the minimum gas-transit fee even if it does not pump the contracted volumes through Ukraine. Russia likely agreed to the provision because it intends to phase Ukraine out of its transport system in the long run.

Ukraine surrendered long-term leverage as part of the deal, however. Ukraine agreed to nullify its pending claims against Gazprom, at least two of which were worth an estimated $20 billion dollars total.[17] The new contract’s terms decrease volume transport through Ukraine over time, which will result in revenue losses for Ukraine.[18] Gazprom did not discuss the issue of returning Naftogaz’s assets in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea Peninsula during the contract negotiations.

Ukraine also ceded an opportunity to extract non-energy related concessions from Russian President Vladimir Putin by leveraging its upper hand on gas. Zelensky could likely have leveraged the situation for a better outcome in the Russia-Ukraine talks regarding the Russian-fueled war in Ukraine, including regarding the terms of the December 29 prisoner exchange.[19]

The Kremlin also bought itself time to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and reorient its efforts on other campaigns. The contract with Ukraine buys the Kremlin time to finish constructing the Nord Steam 2 pipeline, which the Kremlin likely intends to use to cut Ukraine out of its gas transit to Europe in the long term. The contract also provides the Kremlin additional financial security, ability to deliver on its energy promises to Europe and to its cultivation targets in the now independent states of the former Soviet Union, like Moldova, as well as bandwidth to focus on the next phases of its campaigns in Ukraine and globally.

The Kremlin used multiple points of leverage to secure the deal. The Kremlin exploited a combination of factors to compel Zelensky to sign the deal. Ukraine’s finances need the steady revenue from Russian gas transit fees and the $3 billion dollar payout from the disputed arbitration claim. Zelensky likely assessed that not renewing the contract would damage support for Ukraine in Europe, notably in Germany and France. Russia also manipulated Ukraine on gas in the “peace talks” surrounding the war in Eastern Ukraine.

Putin has likely exploited the Zelensky government’s need to secure funds to support the Ukrainian economy and foreign debt payment obligations in the short term by including an offer of an immediate cash payment – $3 billion – into the deal. The Kremlin first tried to incentivize Ukraine with lower gas prices. Putin offered Ukraine a 25% discount on gas on November 14, echoing a proposal the Kremlin made to Moldova in September.[20] Putin then switched to a strategy of diluting Ukraine’s leverage by tying in energy talks with “peace talks” in the agenda of the Normandy Format meeting between Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany on December 8.[21]

Key European countries failed to seize an opportunity to pressure Russia. Europe missed an opportunity to counter Russia’s aggression. In fact, German and French leaders may have encouraged Ukraine to sign the deal to avoid any gas supply disruptions to Europe.[22] The West could have recognized a strategic opportunity to counter Russia and prevent the Kremlin from diluting Ukraine’s leverage on energy. Europe could have provided Ukraine with more room to maneuver – financially and politically. Europe could have also helped Ukraine preserve its long-term leverage and ensure more favorable terms on both energy and talks regarding the conflict in Ukraine. The West continues to miss opportunities to push back on Russia and is ceding leverage in part because the West continues to compartmentalize its approach with regard to Russia. The West must view the Kremlin’s intertwined campaigns and objectives holistically – across theaters and time – in order to respond effectively to Russia’s hybrid warfare.

[1] Nataliya Bugayova and George Barros, “The Perils of Talks on Russia's War in Ukraine,” The Institute for the Study of War, December 7, 2019,
[2] Gazprom offered to extend the existing gas transit contract by one year. The offer came with three demands: Ukraine must drop all mutual claims in international arbitration, the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine must annul its fine on Gazprom for alleged abuse of its dominant position, and Naftogaz must withdraw its application to the European Commission to investigate Gazprom. Stuart Elliott, “Gazprom Makes Official Proposal to Ukraine's Naftogaz for 1-Year Gas Transit Deal,” S&P Global, November 18, 2019,
[3] Stuart Elliott, “Gazprom Makes Official Proposal to Ukraine's Naftogaz for 1-Year Gas Transit Deal,” S&P Global, November 18, 2019,
[4] [“Ukraine is Ready for Russian Gas Shutoff,”] Obozrevatel, November 5, 2019, https((:))// ; [“We Are Ready for the Stop of Russian Gas Transportation through the Territory of Ukraine – Orzhel,”] 5 Kanal, November 5, 2019, https((:))//; [“Refusal of Naftogaz’s Arbitrations Claims against Gazprom is Not Economically Feasible - Top Naftogaz Manager,”] Interfax Ukraine, November 19, 2019, https((:))// ; [“Naftogaz Offered Gazprom to Pay Stockholm Debts with Gas,”] Vedomosti, November 25, 2019, https((:))//
[5] Ukrainian gas reserves reached a high of 18.9 bcm before December 31. Ukraine consumed 32.3 bcm of gas in 2018 and 31.9 in 2017. “Ukrtransgaz: 13.1 bcm of Gas Injected in Ukraine's USFs in 2019, up 34% from 2018,” Unian, January 3, 2020, https://www(.) ; “Ukraine Winter Season Gas Reserves Rise to 18.8 bcm,” Reuters, September 9, 2019,; “Gas Consumption in Ukraine, 2017-2018,” Naftogaz, January 29, 2019, https://naftogaz-europe((.))com/article/en/gasconsumptioninukraine20172018.
[6] [“Refusal of Naftogaz’s Arbitrations Claims against Gazprom is Not Economically Feasible - Top Naftogaz Manager,”] Interfax Ukraine, November 19, 2019, https((:))//
[7] Oleksiy Honcharuk post December 10, Oleksiy Honcharuk Facebook, December 10, 2019,
[8] “Naftogaz to Lose Hr 13 billion in Net Profit in 2020,” Kyiv Post, December 18, 2019, https://www.kyivpost(.)com/business/naftogaz-to-lose-hr-13-billion-in-net-profit-in-2020.html.
[9] “Hungary and Slovakia are Preparing Together for the Eventuality that Gas Will not be Arriving via Ukraine,” Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, April 26, 2019, https://www.kormany(.)hu/en/ministry-of-foreign-affairs-and-trade/news/hungary-and-slovakia-are-preparing-together-for-the-eventuality-that-gas-will-not-be-arriving-via-ukraine; Poland’s PGNiG gas operator confirmed Poland is ready if Gazprom and Naftogaz’s gas transit contract expires on December 11. PGNiG claimed alternative gas suppliers, including Norway, the EU, the United States, and Qatar, could satisfy Poland’s gas demands. “Poland is Ready if Russia Cuts Gas Transit to the EU Across Ukraine this Winter,” BNE Intellinews, December 12, 2019, https://www.intellinews(.)com/poland-is-ready-if-russia-cuts-gas-transit-to-the-eu-across-ukraine-this-winter-173321/?source=ukraine; Slovak Minister of Energy Peter Žiga said the Ministry of Economy considers contract non-renewal “quite possible” and that the ministry is preparing for the consequences on December 11. [“Slovakia is Preparing for a Crisis of Gas Supply from Russia through Ukraine,”] RIA Novosti, November 12, 2019, https://ria(.)ru/20191211/1562279147.html; [“After the New Year, a Gas Crisis is Likely, Minister Ziga Said,”] Konzervatívny Web, December 11, 2019, https://www.konzervativnyweb(.)sk/c/22281197/po-novom-roku-je-plynova-kriza-pravdepodobna-mysli-si-minister-ziga.html; [“Russian Gas from Ukraine is not Likely to Flow. The State is Preparing for a Crisis Scenario,”] Pravda, December 11, 2019, https://spravy.pravda(.)sk/ekonomika/clanok/535742-rusky-plyn-z-ukrajiny-zrejme-nepritecie-stat-chysta-krizovy-scenar/.
[10] Moldova and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s (EBRD) signed an agreement on funding a potential plan for alternative gas supplies on December 11. Moldovan Prime Minister Ion Chicu confirmed the Moldovan government was working on contingency plans in the event of a gas contract non-renewal. Chicu said the agreement will provide Moldova with Ukrainian gas as a backup if Moldova has to find an alternative way to import gas and if Moldovan state-owned gas operator Moldovagaz has insufficient funds to import the gas. “EBRD to Lend Moldova $50 Million for Gas Purchase from Naftogaz,” Kyiv Post, December 12, 2019, https://www.kyivpost(.)com/ukraine-politics/ebrd-to-lend-moldova-50-million-for-gas-purchase-from-naftogaz.html.
[11] The Kremlin failed to reach its goal of having Nord Stream 2 and Turk Stream’s second line operational by January 1, 2020. Gazprom began shipping gas to Turkey via Turk Stream’s first line connecting Russia and Turkey on January 1. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan held an inauguration ceremony for Turk Stream’s first line on January 8. Bulgaria calls Turk Stream’s second line connecting Bulgaria to Serbia and Hungary “Balkan Stream.” Construction on Turk Stream’s “Balkan Stream” Bulgarian line is not complete. Putin accused Bulgaria of deliberately delaying Turk Stream’s Bulgaria line and said Moscow could find ways to bypass Sofia if needed on December 4. Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Anatoly Makarov said Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov pledged Russian gas would go through Bulgaria to Serbia via Turk Stream on May 31, 2020. Vladimir Soldatkin, “Russia's Putin Accuses Bulgaria of Holding up TurkStream Pipeline,” Reuters, December 4, 2019,; Tsvetelia Tsolova and Vladimir Soldatkin, “Russia Says Bulgaria to Complete Pipeline Stretch of TurkStream by 2020,” Reuters, October 21, 2019,; “Balkan Stream Ready to Receive Gas from TurkStream Starting January 1,” TASS, December 9, 2019, https://tass(.)com/economy/1097089; Zeeshan Aziz, “Borissov Pledged Russian Gas Transit To Serbia May 31, 2020 - Russian Ambassador,” UrduPoint, December 12, 2019, https://www.urdupoint(.)com/en/business/borissov-pledged-russian-gas-transit-to-serbi-785755.html.
[12] Russia’s logistical methods for gas export to Moldova are limited without Ukrainian gas transit infrastructure. Nataliya Bugayova and George Barros, “The Perils of Talks on Russia's War in Ukraine,” The Institute for the Study of War, December 7, 2019,
[13] Stuart Elliott, “Russia, Ukraine Agree 'In Principle' New Gas Transit Deal: EC,” S&P Global, December 19, 2019,; “Ukraine and Russia Reach 'Agreement in Principle' on Gas Transit,” Hromadske, December 20, 2019, https://en.hromadske(.)ua/posts/ukraine-and-russia-reach-agreement-in-principle-on-gas-transit.
[14] Gazprom paid Ukraine the $3 billion dollars from the Stockholm arbitration case on December 27 to get Ukraine to agree to a new five-year contract. Under the new contract, the minimum guaranteed volumes of gas transit are 65 billion cubic meters for 2020 and 40 billion cubic meters per year from 2021 to 2024, subject to a competitive tariff. The old gas transit contract stipulated that Gazprom was guaranteed to supply 60 billion cubic meters a year to Europe via Ukraine, with the potential to increase up to 90 billion. The new contract stipulates Ukraine agreed to withdraw from all other arbitration proceedings where final decisions had not yet been rendered and retract its claims on Gazprom assets in Europe. Under these provisions, Ukraine nullified at least two major claims: a $7.4 billion Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine claim and a $12.25 billion Stockholm arbitration lawsuit. The sums of these claims would have likely grown over time due to accrued interest. The new contract brought Ukraine into accordance with European gas rules and subjected Gazprom to the “ship or pay” principle. Under European gas rules’ “ship or pay” / “pump or pay” principle, a gas buyer must pay for the contracted transportation capacity regardless of the volume of actually transported gas. “Benefits of ‘Pump or Pay’ Principle: Ukrainian GTS Operator Reports on Russian Gas Transit Volumes,” Unian, January 3, 2020, https://www.unian(.)info/economics/10818437-benefits-of-pump-or-pay-principle-ukrainian-gts-operator-reports-on-russian-gas-transit-volumes.html; “Gazprom Pays Ukraine for Twice the Volume of Gas Pumped,” Unian, January 24, 2020, https://www.unian(.)info/economics/10844663-gazprom-pays-ukraine-for-twice-the-volume-of-gas-pumped.html; “Naftogaz, GTSOU and Gazprom Signed a Set of Agreements to Ensure Russian Gas Transit over the Next Five Years,” Naftogaz, December 31, 2019, http://www.naftogaz(.)com/www/3/nakweben.nsf/0/24DE3C1B1D52B136C22584E00079DA9E?OpenDocument&year=2019&month=12&nt=News&; Stuart Elliott, “Russia-Ukraine Legal Dispute Intensifies with New $12 Billion Lawsuit,” S&P Global, November 5, 2019,; “Details Emerge of Ukraine-Russia Gas Transit Agreement,” Hromadske, December 21, 2019, https://en.hromadske(.)ua/posts/details-emerge-of-ukraine-russia-gas-transit-agreement; Oleksiy Honcharuk post December 27, Oleksiy Honcharuk Facebook, December 27, 2019,; Naftogaz of Ukraine post December 27, Naftogaz of Ukraine Facebook, December 27, 2019,
[15] Stockholm ruled in favor of Naftogaz in two cases against Gazprom for Gazprom’s breaches of contract in failure to deliver agreed volumes of gas in December 2017 and February 2018. “Ukraine's Naftogaz Claims $2.56 Billion Victory in Gazprom Legal Battle,” Reuters, February 28, 2018,
[16] Ukraine began seizing Gazprom’s assets in the U.K., Netherlands, and Switzerland in March 2018 for non-compliance with the decision of the $3 billion Stockholm arbitration court ruling. Naftogaz claimed Dutch and Swiss courts supported Naftogaz’s petition to seize Gazprom’s assets in relation to the $3 billion Stockholm Arbitration case in June 2018. Gazprom challenged these cases in court and refused to cooperate with court rulings in Switzerland and the Netherlands. Gazprom claimed Switzerland’s Zug Canton court repealed its May 29 ruling on asset seizure in January 2019. Naftogaz claimed the Zug Canton court’s repeal decision regarding Gazprom’s assets seizure was due to technical jurisdiction issues, not the principles of the dispute on January 20. Naftogaz also claimed Gazprom refused to comply with Dutch and Swiss court orders. London’s Commercial Court issued a freezing order in respect of Gazprom’s assets in England and Wales on June 19, 2018. Gazprom provided Naftogaz a list of all its assets valued greater than $50,000 to comply with the order after the Russian Energy Ministry gave Gazprom permission. Gazprom confirmed Naftogaz lifted its foreign asset freeze against Gazprom assets in the U.K. Luxembourg, and Switzerland on January 20. Naftogaz justified the decision to back off asset seizures after Gazprom paid the $3 billion. “Ukraine Begins Seizure of Russian Energy Giant Gazprom's Assets, Citing Stockholm Court Decision,” RT, March 7, 2018, https://www.rt(.)com/business/420738-ukraine-gazprom-assets-arrests-court/; “Court Attached Gazprom’s Dutch Assets to Secure USD 2.6 Billion Settlement with Naftogaz,” Naftogaz, June 5, 2018, http://www.naftogaz(.)com/www/3/nakweben.nsf/0/17FF04A21360A139C22582A30021F2F; “Swiss Court Overturns Arrest of Russia’s Gazprom Assets Which Ukraine Claims Were Seized,” RT, January 18, 2019, https://www.rt(.)com/business/449107-gazprom-naftogaz-swiss-court/; “Swiss Court Confirms Validity and Enforceability of Transit Award. Gazprom Conceals its Swiss Assets,” Naftogaz, January 18, 2019, http://www.naftogaz(.)com/www/3/nakweben.nsf/0/655E11DDC8F27340C2258386005206C2?OpenDocument&year=2019&month=01&nt=News&; “Court freezes Gazprom Dutch Assets to Enforce Stockholm Arbitration Order to Pay $2.6 Bln,” Interfax Ukraine, June 5, 2018, https://en.interfax(.); “Naftogaz says British court grants Gazprom asset freeze in UK,” Reuters, June 19, 2018,; “Russia's Gazprom Discloses Information on its Assets in Great Britain,” UAWIRE, July 6, 2018, https://uawire(.)org/gazprom-disclosed-information-on-its-assets-in-great-britain; “Gazprom Says Foreign Asset Freeze Lifted,” Reuters, January 20, 2020,
[17] Ukraine nullified at least two major claims: a $7.4 billion Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine claim and a $12.25 billion Stockholm arbitration lawsuit. Stuart Elliott, “Russia-Ukraine Legal Dispute Intensifies with New $12 Billion Lawsuit,” S&P Global, November 5, 2019,; “Details Emerge of Ukraine-Russia Gas Transit Agreement,” Hromadske, December 21, 2019, https://en.hromadske(.)ua/posts/details-emerge-of-ukraine-russia-gas-transit-agreement.
[18] Under the new contract, the minimum guaranteed volumes of gas transit are 65 billion cubic meters for 2020 and 40 billion cubic meters per year from 2021 to 2024, subject to a competitive tariff. The old gas transit contract stipulates that Gazprom was guaranteed to supply 60 billion cubic meters a year to Europe via Ukraine, with the potential to increase up to 90 billion. “Details Emerge of Ukraine-Russia Gas Transit Agreement,” Hromadske, December 21, 2019, https://en.hromadske(.)ua/posts/details-emerge-of-ukraine-russia-gas-transit-agreement; “Naftogaz, GTSOU and Gazprom Signed a Set of Agreements to Ensure Russian Gas Transit over the Next Five Years,” Naftogaz, December 31, 2019, http://www.naftogaz(.)com/www/3/nakweben.nsf/0/24DE3C1B1D52B136C22584E00079DA9E?OpenDocument&year=2019&month=12&nt=News&.
[19] Russia and Ukraine completed a prisoner exchange on December 29. Ukraine returned Russian nationals, as well as five members of the disbanded Berkut security service who are suspected participants in the crackdown and killing of demonstrators at the Euromaidan protests of 2014. Zelensky faced pushback from civil society, but defended the exchange of the five Berkut members, saying it was the Kremlin’s condition for the exchange. Zelensky might have been able to use Ukraine’s upper hand on energy to extract concession from Putin on a number of non-energy related issues, such as prisoner swap or other issues. Tony Wesolowsky, “Price To Pay: Release Of Former Ukrainian Riot Police In Prisoner Swap Sparks Anguish, Debate,” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, December 30, 2019,; Oleg Sukhov and Jostyantyn Chernichkin, “Court Releases Former Berkut Officers Charged with EuroMaidan Killings,” Kyiv Post, December 28, 2019, https://www.kyivpost(.)com/ukraine-politics/court-releases-berkut-prisoners-charged-with-euromaidan-killings.html.
[20] [“Putin Spoke about the Risks of Stopping Gas Transit through Ukraine,”] TASS, November 14, 2019, https://tass(.)ru/ekonomika/7122979; [“Russia is Ready to Reduce Gas Price for Ukraine by 25%, - Putin,”] Zik, November 15, 2019, https://zik(.)ua/news/2019/11/15/rosiia_hotova_znyzyty_tsinu_hazu_dlia_ukrainy_na_25__putin_944918; “Putin: Ukrainian Industry Could Be Offered 25% Lower Gas Prices,” Russia Business Today, December 10, 2019, https://russiabusinesstoday(.)com/energy/putin-ukrainian-industry-could-be-offered-25-lower-gas-prices/; “Gas Prices for Consumers in Ukraine May be 25% Lower — Putin,” TASS, December 9, 2019, https://tass(.)com/economy/1097573; The Kremlin said starting on January 1, 2020, Moldova would receive Russian gas at $173 per thousand cubic meters- as of January 1, 2019, the price was $235. “Russia to Sell Gas to Moldova at Price of $173 in 2020,” TASS, November 20, 2019, https://tass(.)com/economy/1091231; “Moldovan President: Russia has Provided a Gas Discount for Moldova,” UAWIRE, September 10, 2019, https://www.uawire(.)org/moldovan-president-russia-has-provided-a-gas-discount-for-moldova.
[21] Nataliya Bugayova and George Barros, “The Perils of Talks on Russia's War in Ukraine,” The Institute for the Study of War, December 7, 2019,
[22] Zelensky said a gas transit deal with Russia looks more likely after meeting with Putin, Merkel, and Macron in Paris. Zelenskiy said Ukraine has “more chances to sign [a contract] with better conditions that had previously been discussed,” on December 10. https://tsn(.)ua/ru/groshi/a-u-nas-v-kvartire-gaz-a-u-vas-putin-i-zelenskiy-rasskazali-o-rezultatah-gazovyh-peregovorov-1457037.html ; https://www.rbc(.)ru/rbcfreenews/5deede4c9a79477f95780d6d. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Sadr Withdraws Support for Iraq's Popular Protest Movement

By Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace 

Key Takeaway: Nationalist and populist Shi’a cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr withdrew cover for Iraq’s popular protest movement on January 24, setting conditions for a subsequent security crackdown against the protesters by Iraqi government and Iranian proxy militia forces. Sadr’s betrayal of Iraq’s popular protest movement has the potential to sever the relationship between Iraq’s Shi’a population and its political and religious establishments. The threat to U.S. forces in Iraq increases as Sadr erodes his nationalist foundations in favor of a closer relationship with Iran’s proxy militia network and political agenda.


Mass anti-government protests have occupied city centers across Southern Iraq since October. Protesters’ core objectives include a unified and sovereign Iraq free from corrupt elites, sectarian divides, and foreign interference by all actors, including Iran and, to a lesser extent, the United States. The protests faced violent crackdowns by unspecified government security forces and by Iranian proxy militia groups in their early months. Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) Adel Abdul Mehdi resigned on November 29 following a particularly brutal crackdown. The immediate demands of the protest movement are for new elections and for an independent new PM to replace Mehdi, who has remained in power in a caretaker capacity pending the nomination of a new premier.

Militia groups led by the notoriously mercurial Moqtada al-Sadr became self-appointed security guards for the protesters in late October. Sadr’s militia supporters fought against likely Iranian proxy militias to defend protesters in the al-Sinak massacre which killed 25 people and injured 130 in Baghdad on December 6.[1] Sadr ordered the withdrawal of that protection in December 2019 but continued to offer rhetorical support for protesters’ demands.[2] He had never called on his supporters to join the protest movement. However, Sadr made previous repeated statements in support of protesters’ demands, particularly their economic and anti-corruption agenda items.[3] His supporters were considered the best organized and best-supplied participants in the protest movement.[4]

Sadr perceived the U.S. strike that killed senior Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and de facto Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) leader Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis to be a direct violation of Iraqi sovereignty. Sadr, in response, began to mobilize his militias and called for “international resistance groups” to form in order to oppose the continued U.S. presence in Iraq. Sadr then met with senior Iranian proxy militia officials in Qom, Iran to discuss their shared interests in ousting U.S. forces.[5] Iranian proxy groups began referring to themselves as an “Iraqi resistance front.”[6] Sadr notably did not respond to Iranian violations of Iraqi sovereignty, such as the missile strike against Iraqi and American soldiers stationed at Iraq’s Ain al-Assad Airbase on January 8.[7]

Sadr organized an anti-U.S. march in Baghdad alongside his usual rivals, Iran’s proxy militia network, on January 24, 2020. An estimated 250,000 demonstrators participated in the march. Participants in Iraq’s popular protests objected, elsewhere in Baghdad, to Sadr’s latest attempts to co-opt their months-long movement. They chanted “no, no Moqtada, no, no Hadi, my country remains free.”[8] These chants referred to Sadr and to Hadi al-Ameri, a co-organizer of Sadr’s anti-U.S. march and key Iranian proxy figure who leads the Badr Organization and the second largest parliamentary bloc. Sadr appeared to be personally offended by these chants.

Sadr withdrew political cover from Iraq’s popular protests following the march. Sadr posted a statement to Twitter late on the night of January 24 in which he said that he would no longer “interfere in the issue [of Iraq’s popular protests], either negatively or positively…I am expressing my disappointment and my regret toward all those who doubted me among the Tahrir Square protesters. I thought they were supporters of me and of Iraq.” He also accused protesters of being “foreign paid tools.”[9] This statement reverses Sadr’s previous support for the popular protest movement.[10] Some Sadrists among the protesters began to withdraw from sit-in sites. Security forces began their crackdown against the protesters in the early morning hours the following day.[11]

  • Sadr’s withdrawal clears the way for government and militia forces to attempt to end the popular protest movement. The protesters, without Sadr’s support, are facing political and militia factions that have every incentive to end their movement as quickly as possible. Iran perceives Iraq’s popular protests to be an existential threat to stability inside of Iran. The Iraqi government and Iran’s proxy militia forces in Iraq, meanwhile, perceive the protests to be a direct threat to their influence and political power.
  • The security crackdown targeting the protest movement has already begun. Security forces and unspecified militias began attacking and burning protest encampments in Baghdad and in the southern cities of Basra and Nasiriyah within hours of Sadr’s announcement.[12]
  • Iraq’s protesters have demonstrated their resiliency before and could survive this betrayal. Iraq’s popular protest movement has faced down snipers, a concerted kidnapping and torture campaign, counter-demonstrations, and nearly four months of cyclical, brutal crackdowns. The Sadrists, often disenfranchised Shi’a Iraqis from poor urban and rural areas, made up only one important demographic in the protest movement. Its original base was made up of educated students, unemployed university graduates, and professional trade unions. It has shown remarkable resiliency before and could do so again. Popular anti-government protests such as those in Syria, which began in 2011 and continue today, exemplify the potential durability of these sentiments even in the face of brutal retaliation by state security forces.[13]
  • Sadr’s abrupt about-face puts his populist identity at risk. Sadr’s public statements indicate that he rejected the popular protest movement, at least in part, because he was hurt that it was not supporting him. A statement from his office decried “those who have offended the symbol of the nation, Sayed Moqtada al-Sadr.”[14] The Sadrist movement is historically subject to splinters. Assad al-Naseri, a prominent former imam of the Kufa mosque who was close to Sadr’s father, already rejected Sadr’s betrayal of the protests. Naseri publically removed his turban in a symbolic gesture of his prioritization of the popular protest movement over his religious affiliation to Sadr.[15] Anecdotal evidence of protesters denouncing Sadr’s betrayal indicates that members of his base may reconsider their allegiance.[16]
  • This reversal, however temporary, puts Sadr another step closer to Iran’s proposed “Iraqi resistance front” and damages his nationalist brand. Iran does not need Sadr’s militia support to advance its agenda, although even his temporary participation would render any of those military courses of action much more dangerous to the United States. It is unclear whether Sadr would be willing to escalate to kinetic assaults on U.S. forces. However, given Sadr’s recent statements, his remobilization of the anti-U.S. Jaysh al-Mahdi militia, and his history of attacks on American assets, ISW will be watching for indicators of a potential Sadrist escalation, whether unilaterally or in concert with Iran’s proxy militia network.[17] These indicators could include meetings between Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam militia leaders and senior Iranian proxy officials from within the PMF.
  • A temporary Sadr-proxy alliance could break Iraq’s legislative deadlock in favor of a PM candidate in line with Iran’s agenda, thereby denying Sadr a reformist platform. As the authors wrote in a January 23 Warning Intelligence Update, Sadr’s support for and participation in Iran’s Iraqi parliamentary objectives is invaluable. Sadr demonstrated his willingness to work with Iran’s political proxies on January 5 when they cooperated to pass a non-binding resolution to expel U.S. forces from Iraq over the objections of every non-Shi’a MP.[18] A new prime minister is required to make good on that parliamentary resolution. Sadr may, therefore, be incentivized to break the deadlock that has kept Iraq’s resigned PM in office in a caretaker capacity since November 29, 2019. Sadr could work with Iran’s proxy political blocs to do so. Sadr’s participation means that the military and political pressure on Iraqi politicians to oust U.S. forces, which sharply increased following the U.S. strike on January 3, will likely continue to intensify.

Sadr’s political identity rested on three pillars: his populism, his nationalism, and his reformist agenda. He built his brand around the concept of being an outsider. He happily railed against the corrupt and ineffective Iraqi state. The onus was on Sadr to achieve the reform for which he advocated after his Toward Reform bloc won the most seats in the 2018 parliamentary elections. Sadr appeared unable to cope with that fundamentally different reality, or with the new expectations placed on him by the Shi’a electorate.

Sadr’s hot-tempered and likely ill-conceived rejection of the protest movement erodes all three of his foundational principles. He betrays his populism by turning on the protesters. He undermines his nationalism by aligning himself more closely with Iran’s proxies. And if he fails to nominate a popular, independent prime minister, as is his ostensible duty as the head of the largest bloc in Iraq’s parliament, Sadr may finally sever his connection to his base: the Shi’a street.

This is a watershed moment in the slow-motion fragmentation of Iraq’s budding Shi’a coalition. The simple majority elected in 2018 represented a potential parliamentary opportunity to enact governance reforms and address popular grievances. However, the alliance that appointed the Mehdi government fractured, thereby undermining its popular mandate. Sadr was one of the few remaining links between Iraq’s traditional political power brokers and his typically impoverished, disenfranchised Shi’a base.

This moment also exposes the fault lines between the majority-Shi’a Iraqi people and the Shi’a religious establishment. Iraq’s highest religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has remained popular and continues to support the protesters’ demands, yet Sistani has proven ineffective at coordinating a government response.[19] Meanwhile, Sadr, who gained hereditary influence through the religious importance of his martyred family, has betrayed the people.

Sadr may have done irreconcilable damage to his credibility. Sadr needs to prove to his traditional base that he remains the catalyst for nationalist-populist reform. Other actors in Iraq face their own divisions. Iraq’s Sunnis are still splintered by internal fracturing and the de-Ba’athification processes of the last twenty years. Iraq’s Kurds have their own internal conflicts. If Iraq’s Shi’a political coalition cannot repair itself and its relationship to its base, then the strongest, most unified actor left in Iraq may be the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

[1] Samya Kullab. “Iraqi Officials Raise Toll to 25 Killed in Baghdad Bloodshed.” Associated Press, December 7, 2019.
[2] [“The owner of the ‘blue hats’ hand over responsibility in Tahrir Square to the security forces,”] al-Sumaria, December 20, 2019. https://www.alsumaria(.)tv/news/%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AA/329097/%D8%A3%D8%B5%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B2%D8%B1%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D9%8A%D8%B3%D9%84%D9%85%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%82%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B7%D8%B9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%A4%D9%88%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%B3%D8%A7.
[3] Alissa J Rubin. “Iraq Police Crack Down on Protests as Influential Cleric Withdraws Support.” The New York Times, January 25, 2020.
[4] Alissa J. Rubin. “'Our Patience Is Over': Why Iraqis Are Protesting.” The New York Times, November 20, 2019.
[5] Katherine Lawlor with Brandon Wallace. “Warning Intelligence Update: Iran Increases Pressure on U.S. Forces in Iraq.” Institute for the Study of War, January 23, 2020.
[6] al-Sadr, Moqtada. Twitter, January 3, 2020. al-Khazali, Qais, Twitter, January 14, 2020. Harakat al-Nujaba, Twitter, January 14, 2020.
[7] “Iran 'Concludes' Attacks, Foreign Minister Says.” The New York Times, January 7, 2020. Stories&pgtype=Homepage#link-705d4ad7.
[8] Munqith M. Dagher. Twitter, January 24, 2020.
[9] Moqtada al-Sadr. Twitter, January 24, 2020.
Samya Kullab. “4 Dead, Tents Ablaze after Iraq Cleric Pulls Protest Support.” Associated Press, January 25, 2020.
[10] Katherine Lawlor with Brandon Wallace. “Anti-U.S. Protests in Baghdad: Interim Summary.” Institute for the Study of War, January 24, 2020. Alissa J. Rubin and Falih Hassan, “Protesters Mass in Baghdad, Demanding U.S. Leave Iraq,” New York Times, January 24, 2020.
[11] Maya Gebeily. Twitter, January 25, 2020.
[12] Maher Nazih. “Iraqi Security Forces Raid Protest Camps after Sadr Supporters Withdraw.” Reuters, January 25, 2020. Samya Kullab. “4 Dead, Tents Ablaze after Iraq Cleric Pulls Protest Support.” Associated Press, January 25, 2020. “Iraq Security Forces Clear Streets Stoking Protester Fears.” France 24, January 25, 2020.
[13] Lina Sinjab. “Syria Conflict: from Peaceful Protest to Civil War.” BBC, March 15, 2013. Suleiman Al-Khalidi. “New Assad Statue Triggers Protest in Cradle of Syrian Revolt.” Reuters, March 10, 2019.
[14] “Iraq Populist Cleric Calls for Anti-U.S. Demonstrations on Sunday.” Reuters, January 26, 2020.
[15] [“’Take off his turban for the love in Iraq…’ a prominent leader defects in the Sadrist Trend.. What is the story?” ] al-Jazeera, January 27, 2020. https://www.aljazeera(.)net/news/politics/2020/1/27/%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B4%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%82-%D9%82%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%8A-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B2-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D8%AF%D8%B1%D9%8A
[16] Mustafa Salim. Twitter, January 26, 2020. Katherine Lawlor, Brandon Wallace, and Jason Zhou. “Iraq Situation Report: January 4 - 6, 2020.” Institute for the Study of War, January 10, 2020.
[17] Brandon Wallace, Katherine Lawlor, and Jason Zhou. “Iraq Situation Report: December 27, 2019 - January 3, 2020.” Institute for the Study of War, January 6, 2020.
[18] Katherine Lawlor. “Iraq's Parliament Votes to End U.S. Troop Presence in Iraq.” Institute for the Study of War, January 5, 2020.
[19] Ali Mamouri. “As Iraq Bloodshed Spreads, Sistani Calls for Early Elections.” Al Monitor, November 29, 2019.