Al-Kadhimi in The Grip of Iraq's Fractious Political Parties

Published April 26th, 2020 - 06:19 GMT
Mustafa Al Kadhimi  (Wikicommons)

By Diyari Salih

The prominent Shiite blocks in the Iraqi parliament have finally decided on the candidate Mr. Mustafa al-Kadhimi, chief of the Intelligence Service, to be the new Prime Minister. Directly, many Kurdish and Sunni parties declared their support for him and asserted that they would positively work with his government in this critical period Iraq is going through.


This piece argues Al-Kadhimi will not be able to fulfill the wishes of the Iraqi people unless the different parties change their way of dealing with their political system. If they remain divided on the fateful matters, neither Al-Kadhimi nor anyone else would have the opportunity to save this country from a gloomy future.

Great hopes hang on Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government. Political parties are putting tremendous pressure on him to take their interests into account when it comes for instance, to the quota system they have participated in establishing. Publicly, they say they have given him the freedom to choose his cabinet. However, many media sources confirm the reverse and say that in the final analysis, he must listen to the different factions in parliament.


Negotiations for creating the new government reveal that few leaders control the whole process. It is parties, which decide who is the new prime minister and they are also responsible for setting the norms of choosing the ministers. This approach can lead to only one result: "A failed state" since they are attempting to turn Al-Kadhimi into just another  employee in their institutions. But Iraqis no longer accept this. Instead, they want to see a real statesman who can rebuild their nation strongly.

Civilized states need strong leaders who can solve problems and manage crises creatively. These leaders are produced by political parties for revitalizing state function and consolidating its position in the international arena.

In Iraq, such a model has faced many setbacks since 2003, as partisan forces, and for many reasons, fear such sort of rulers; instead they have allowed the Iraqi state to enter a dark tunnel. Indeed, this might well also happen with the Al-Kadhimi’s government.


To his credit, Al-Kadhimi has said his government will depend on action rather than words as it seems he is determined to address the basic challenges facing Iraq in the many different sectors. This means he will have to stamp out all kinds of corruption threatening society and the state but in case political parties choose to challenge him in this regard, he will face a real dilemma. It is widely believed they will not permit him to apply his government program especially on crucial matters that undermine their interests. Hence, sooner or later, he will be forced to admit that these political parties want an Iraqi nation without an actual leadership.


Al-Kadhimi is confronting the possibility of the state collapsing. There are presently many hurdles looming: Oil prices decline, the threat of the coronavirus and the possibility of direct conflict between the US troops and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMFs) that is still high. This is not to mention that the demands of the ongoing protest movement have not been met yet.

To tackle all these points, Al-Kadhimi's government will need a real national consensus on the Iraqi scene to give him the sources of success and strength he requires in this direction. But unfortunately, there are many who doubt that the political parties will understand such necessary conditions that are needed to allow Al-Kadhimi to save the Iraqi state.

Till now, there is no real evidence to suggest that the political parties are especially interested in the fate of the Al-Kadhimi cabinet. Every side is negotiating for the sake of their interests, every party describes itself as the legal representative of its sectarian group and every party has its special geopolitical dogma. This is leading to creating further conflicts with the very concept of the state.

At present, there is serious talk about the nature of the disputes between Al-Kadhimi and the other political factions, especially the PMFs, concerning the security ministries. The paramilitary groups want to impose their word on the security scene and prevent Al-Kadhimi from managing such sensitive institutions. This means that suspicions between them have increased and trust might collapse earlier than what many writers have anticipated. For his part, Al-Kadhimi is still trying to keep his firm grip on the intelligence service. All this tells us how relations between them will develop in the next months.

What they are demanding from Al-Kadhimi is to find a solution to the American presence in Iraq. The PMFs want him to implement the decision taken by the Iraqi parliament calling for the American withdrawal from the country. If he refuses to respond to this, they will accuse him of being an American agent. In turn, America is looking forward to his role of securing its US Embassy and its military bases from the missile attacks launched by these groups. If he does not do so, he would face a sharp American reaction. Therefore, it can be said he is facing a hard position between all these forces.

Al-Kadhimi will not be allowed to break the mechanism of sharing the ministries among the big parties. There are six ministries classified as sovereign, those of the Interior, Defense, Foreign Affairs, Oil, Finance, and Planning. Political parties distribute them in this way: 3 ministries to the Shiites, 2 to the Sunnis, and one ministry to the Kurds.

Iraqi society, however, has begun refusing this formula for these ministries as they have been turned into “business centers” serving the parties controlling them. Consequently, people now do not regard these ministries as public institutions belonging to the state but pure partisan possessions.

In sum, the Iraqi political experience has proved we need a new generation to lead the state. Traditional parties have lost their ability to manage the change people are dreaming of. These political forces are obliged to change their policies and to work with others to find a way out of this impasse. This is what Iraqi people want from them. Otherwise, they will be responsible for failing Al-Kadhimi's government, that is now being restricted by many political interests, which will restrain the effectiveness of its action in the upcoming period.


Diyari Salih is an Iraqi academic with a Ph.D. in Political Geography from the University of Baghdad and a Post-Doctorate in International Relations from the University of Warsaw. His research focuses on geopolitical issues in Iraq.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Al Bawaba News

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