Aug. 14, 2022

Exclusive interview: The Sadrist Movement's vision for Iraq


Iraqi politics is entering a new and highly combustible phase. Tensions are rising between the Sadrist Movement and the Shiite Coordination Framework, with street power increasingly deployed. For the first time since the US-led invasion in 2003, Iraq may face an all-out confrontation among powerful Shiite groups.

In this context, it is vital to understand the Sadrist Movement’s aims and vision. To this end, conducted an exclusive interview with Mr. Dhiaa Al-Asadi, a prominent Iraqi academic and politician. Asadi has acted as political representative to Sadrist Movement leader Muqtada Al-Sadr. He also led the Sadrist-affiliated Al-Ahrar bloc in the parliament.

The full interview transcript [2926 words] is available here.

The backdrop: The Sadrist Movement became the single largest bloc in the Oct. 2021 parliamentary polls. The Coordination Framework alleged fraud as most of its members lost seats compared to the 2018 polls.

  • Following the elections, Sadr attempted to end the post-2003 custom of forming a consensus cabinet with all major political forces represented. Instead, he allied with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Sunni blocs to establish a “national majority government.”
  • When the effort to sideline the Coordination Framework failed, Sadr in June ordered his lawmakers to resign, giving his Shiite rivals a chance to propose a prime minister candidate of their own.

The current crisis erupted after the Coordination Framework last month put forward Mohammed Shia’ Al-Sudani, a former associate of ex-premier Nouri Al-Maliki (2006-14), as prime minister. Of note, Maliki has long been Sadr’s main foe.

  • On July 30, the date set for parliament to convene to elect a president—who in turn would have been anticipated to task Sudani with forming the next government—the Sadrists stormed the legislature and have been holding a sit-in outside the building ever since.
  • To protest the Sadrist “coup,” the Coordination Framework has mobilized its supporters as well, holding a series of demonstrations.
  • Amid the escalating intra-Shiite confrontation, Sadr on Aug. 13 called for a “million-man march” in support of his demand for the parliament to be dissolved, fresh elections to be held, and constitutional amendments to be enacted.

The early intra-Shiite divide: Going back to the 2003 US-led invasion, one underlying issue which emerged, according to Asadi, related to the divide between returnees and political leaders who had stayed in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein era (1979-2003). Given that the Sadrist Movement enjoys strongest support in southern Iraq and low-income urban neighborhoods, there is also a clear class element to the intra-Shiite political divide...

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