Iran Courts Iraqi Kurdish, Sunni Leaders to Abandon Sadr

Iran still hoping to salvage its own coalition bloc

Since the 2003 US invasion and occupation, Iraq’s governments have been driven heavily from overseas. The US and the Iranian governments, respectively, kept close blocs of political allies, and ensured those groups had positions of import.

That’s not broadly the case in 2022. Those politically aligned groups are still out there, but voters have roundly rejected the idea, and in recent elections are rewarding those who have independent positions. This drove nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to a sizeable plurality in the most recent vote.

Getting from plurality to government is still a difficult matter in Iraq, and Iran’s government is reportedly increasing pressure on certain factions, particularly Kurdish and Sunni Arab groups, to back away from Sadr and give a pro-Iran coalition one more chance.

There’s a lot of speculation on the Iraqi parliament, with Sadr needing a clear set of allies to form a government. Iran’s bloc, led by former PM Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to have a long-shot for forming a government, if certain sides break the right way.

Iraqi voters’ interest in charting an independent course not dominated by a foreign power would make changing sides from Sadr to Maliki politically risky, but Sadr’s course has a lot of unknowns to it, while what a Maliki government brings to the table is well-documented, for better or worse. Some factions may find that a safer choice.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of