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When the Sadrist Movement in early January called for a mass “unified Friday prayer,” there was some consternation among observers. As the movement’s leader—Shiite cleric and politician Muqtada Al-Sadr—last year declared his exit from Iraqi politics, there was cautious anticipation of something major potentially being about to unfold. Yet the Jan. 13 prayer was held peacefully in Baghdad and most southern governorates, except for Basra which was hosting the Arabian Gulf Cup.
Return to the political process?
Though the Sadrist sermon was devoid of any political rhetoric, the mass congregations of worshipers on Jan. 13 have been seen by some observers as political warm-up by the head of the movement. The backdrop is hard to miss; amid growing talk of Sadr’s “silence” and “retirement,” Prime Minister Muhammad Shia’ Al-Sudani’s government is nearing its 100th day in office without having scored a major political win. Given their performance in the Oct. 2021 parliamentary polls, when they became the single largest bloc, the Sadrists are unlikely to exclude themselves from the formal political process in perpetuity.
In this context, many of the ingredients for another political crisis are already stacking up. While the victory in the Gulf Cup saw Iraqis come together in celebration, the country has been beset with a currency crisis. The government has also yet to present a draft for a new election law, as Sudani had promised he would within three months of forming his cabinet. Of further note, the prime minister—whose appointment last autumn ended the deadlock between his supporters in the...
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