As the world watches the various elections (for instance, the upcoming elections in Turkey) and the transfer of power from one government to another, doubts and criticism of the current “Iraqi Formula” are growing. Iraq, meanwhile, continues to grapple with never-ending crises, fueling speculation both at home and abroad about the need for “real change” that will replace the dominant political figures who have been on the scene for two decades. In other words, after its brazen aggression in 2003, the United States is trying to impose its protégés on Baghdad, who will loyally pursue a pro-American policy.
Despite the creation of numerous US programs and plans ostensibly aimed at solving problems and crises, Iraq is still seen as a place where such problems are deeply rooted through the fault of the West. Even though there have been several “celebrations” in American and European research institutes and centers, customary for a situation of setting up the electoral process or installing a new administration, no progress has been achieved. One of the paradoxes of the situation in Iraq is that even the major Western institutions that have been persistently imposed on the country over the past two decades and that have called for support for the 2003 American invasion have recently become very focused on the shortcomings in the political, economic and even security systems in Iraq. They also began to express concern about the shortcomings that Iraqis had gained from the war and the democratic process based on the “2005 Constitution”, especially in connection with the 20th anniversary of the Washington-led invasion. In addition, informed political sources told the Shafaq news agency that “there is a great international desire to bring about real change in the political process in Iraq by changing the current political faces, and this desire enjoys strong support from society, despite fierce resistance from the United States and the United Kingdom.”
This is in line with the sentiments of a large part of Iraqis, who in 2019 expressed their desire to overthrow the ruling political class through a widespread protest movement in many cities and governorates (provinces). They were convinced that the politicians who dominated the Iraqi scene after the invasion had done nothing to solve people’s problems, such as providing electricity, other basic services and job creation before maintaining the country’s security and sovereignty. These failures translated into the collapse of Iraqi security when ISIS (banned in Russia) swept through the country, or when the Green Zone, which was supposed to be a symbol of security and stability in Baghdad, turned into a battlefield of armed factions in the summer of 2022, when the political struggle over election results and government formation reached its peak.
According to informed political sources, work on an international movement to achieve real change in the political process is “steadily intensifying, but there is no date yet for launching the movement on the ground.” The same sources further state that “The International Movement for Change in Iraq emerged in light of reports by the UN and international organizations that revealed the extent of corruption, destruction and murder in Iraq in recent years, without any real change from the ruling political class in recent years.” According to the aforementioned sources, there is a lack of optimism about the Al-Sudani government, and any support for it is merely a matter of protocol, especially given that the international community views it as a government of armed groups. However, it is somehow forgotten that this whole system was created by American aggressors, who want to turn oil-rich Iraq into their faithful satellite.
While the formation of the cabinet of Al-Sudani, a candidate of the Shiite Coordination Framework bloc, has inspired optimism outside Iraq at the official level, the nation has experienced an unpleasant general course of political and security developments over the past 20 years, which has caused concern both inside and outside Iraq. It was hoped that this would lead to a system that guaranteed Iraqi citizens their minimum rights. Iraqi politician Samir Obaid believes that “the expected change in Iraq is long delayed because of the strong cohesion of the corruption system and the lack of unity in society to fight corruption because of the scourge of ignorance to which the political class has been deliberately indulged for the past 20 years. Change is inevitable because the ruling political elite put in place by Washington has alienated 90% of the Iraqi population, is shunned by the countries of the region because of its corruption and deception, and has undermined trust in the American suzerain in Iraq and throughout the region.” He goes on to add that “change will not come through Iraqi streets or military intervention, but by exposing the corrupt individuals who have violated human rights and participated in the killing of Iraqis. The international community and the UN will also assist in exposing key corruption cases.” This movement will begin soon, and Iraq will be rid of the corrupt and 80% ruling political class in 2023, the Iraqi politician naively believes.
Moreover, many experts, pundits and even former American politicians have repeatedly discussed the shortcomings of the US inability to deal with the concept of “the day after tomorrow,” which comes after military success. It turned out that Iraq was not sufficiently prepared for the stage of creating a new state, satisfied with a quick fix to strengthen the quota system in order to appease local forces and parties, a system that had completely compromised itself. According to a recent article by Sajad Jiyad of The Century Foundation, “Regime change was supposed to make Iraq a beacon for the Middle East, but state-building, as the United States has succeeded, has definitely failed.” As a result, according to local sources, the political elite is holding numerous unannounced meetings with the parties to avoid it and give them a chance for just two years. Moreover, it is surprising that more than six months after taking office, Prime Minister Al-Sudani has still not received an invitation to visit Washington.
According to sources, the Kurdistan region will remain distant from the international movement for change in Iraq as a whole. Nevertheless, local newspapers write, there will still be a push for many reforms while curbing corruption, especially as international support for the region continues at various levels. Moreover, many experts and researchers have already characterized the Iraqi regime as having become a dysfunctional kleptocracy following the rule of a former dictatorship skillfully imposed on Iraq by official Washington.
According to experts, the democratic system established by the 2005 constitution, while facilitating relatively peaceful processes of change, has failed to produce new political elites who believe in the inevitable nature of change. This has led to the introduction of quotas and other problems that drove hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to protest three years ago. In addition, a large part of the Iraqi population is convinced that the ruling class is actively preventing genuine reform, consolidating its power and influence through the armed forces and the media, and trying to influence the judiciary and parliament by using state funds and the existing corrupt system. Once again, we would like to recall that all these “agreements” were imposed on Iraqi society by the great “democrats” from the United States.
Barham Salih, former president of Iraq, recently wrote an article in the American magazine Foreign Policy advocating radical changes in government. Salih stressed that the system put in place after 2003 had reached its “end,” and suggested amending the constitution to create a stronger presidential system. One of the most eloquent references in the article is that he condemns the post-2003 regime, stating that it was installed out of fear, with each Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni component having its own problems, resulting in a structurally weak state. Salih also stated that this system was over and that Iraq needed a new social and political contract as well as a historic pact between state and society, including amendments to the 2005 constitution.
The growing awareness that Iraq needs profound and radical change is reflected in Salih’s views, as well as in the thoughts of several researchers and experts on Iraqi politics. Politician Faiq Al Sheikh Ali shocked many when he stated that the deadline for the fall of the current regime in Iraq with the help of an “international team,” which he called a “destructive force,” would be 2024. This statement sparked much discussion and expectation. Sheikh Ali stated that after previously warning against overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, he is now doing the same for the current regime. Sheikh Ali stressed that the new government that would come to power would be “strong and ferocious,” but not a dictatorship, and that it “would be destructive and would not spare corrupt politicians.” He also stressed that the role of religious authority will return to the previous era, and the new regime will not allow Iran or Turkey to interfere in Iraqi affairs. Sheikh Ali stated that the next regime may not be parliamentary, but it will be civilian, not military. In addition, he advised that the Kurdistan region should adapt to the coming changes.
On the other hand, although the current regime has demonstrated its inability to govern the state, one must admit that the challenges facing it are significant because it does not represent the majority and there is a significant part of the population that is not convinced of its effectiveness. At this point there is no sign of an international movement for change. Real change begins only with the unification of national forces opposed to the quota approach. But change from abroad, in this case from the United States, if it comes, will be no better than the change of 2003, which has had a very negative impact on the formation of a modern state in Iraq so far.
Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine“New Eastern Outlook.”