Shafaq News/ Albeit emerging from the exterior parameters of the Iraqi political arena, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, the new Iraqi prime minister, has begun his term with glimmers of promise ahead to free Iraq from the impasse it has been stuck in for years. Al-kadhimi takes the helm with a new approach that involves administering major changes in the style of administration, breaking some taboos, developing the country's reputation and apparatuses in dealing with Iraqi issues.
Al-Kadhimi launched his premiership with promising serious measures that seems to set the wheel on the track and end the deadlock that hampered the Iraqi political process complicated by internal and external skirmishes and deeply entrenched in monotony and corruption since the 2003 US-spearheaded invasion.
Iraq has not had a fully functioning government since a wave of political protests – primarily against corruption among the ruling elites of Iraq– forced Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign in November 2019. Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi and later Adnan Al-Zurfi tried but failed to secure a parliamentary vote of confidence, and the ship of Iraq appeared rudderless. Anti-government protests, Iran and the United States settling scores on Iraqi soil, the coronavirus pandemic, and the collapse of the oil markets threatened to sink Iraq further into chaos.
Against this background, Al-Kadhimi emerged as a compromise candidate acceptable to the ruling elites of Iraq, which put him ahead his predecessors, as he came to power without a history of prior feuds or disagreements. His relationships with all sides, including warring parties, are good.
This places him in a favorable position to move forward in the next few months by taking advantage of this goodwill, and the willingness of most politicians to cooperate with him.
Al-Kadhimi demonstrated fine dexterity while dismantling roadside bombs on his way to the helm. His approach to the unstable complications of the Iraqi political network is characterized by great accuracy, caution and confidence. The "pragmatic man" who is known for his "unique personality" benefited from the experience he gained during his service as chief of intelligence to unravel the complex political tangles and distinguish the yellow, green and blue wires, so that none is removed at a wrong time or in a wrong way.
For example, two days ago he instructed forming a fact-finding committee to investigate the presence of secret prisons, connected to agencies in the state, in which demonstrators are being held. The new prime minister was very confident about the urgency of this initiative that he publicly assigned the Minister of Interior -Lieutenant General Othman Al-Ghanmi- to chair this committee by himself.
It is inconceivable that any political, security or parliamentary side would object, suspend or reject this initiative. Such attitude will be self-incriminating for those sides in the eyes of the Iraqi public opinion, as they will expose their involvement or approval for such violation for human rights.
It seems that Al-kadhimi's reforming approach is expressed even in the micro-details of quite early activity in the post. The new prime minister raised controversy on social media over the incident that took place during his visit to the building of the national board of pensions. Al-Kadhimi did not hesitate to immediately call his now residing in Europe brother and moralize him after an employee informed the prime minister that he is administrating the transection papers of his brother. This incident punctuated the prime minister's non tolerating attitude from what became a prevailing norm where nepotism and connections patronized the corrupted dealings and relatives and acquaintances of politicians climbed to government positions or achieved financial benefits through these personal ties.
The administration of the new ministry demonstrated a great tolerance and flexibility towards what seems to be the most immediate challenge represented by the resumption of the demonstrations in Baghdad and other provinces. Al-Kadhimi attempted great strides to appease the protesters. He ordered the release of detained anti-government demonstrators and compensation for the families of hundreds of victims who died since protests began in October last year. His government in her only second session explicitly expressed her zero tolerance policy towards the protestors and asserted that, "The government aims to achieve their legitimate aspirations" as by the governments statement. The Prime Minister’s Office stated that a delegation of Al-Kadhimi’s advisors met representatives of the demonstrators and activists in Wasit (eastern Iraq), and heard their requests to transfer them to Al-Kadhimi.
Al-Kadhimi further promised to dispense pensions, overturning a decision by the previous administration to freeze state spending, including civil servants' salaries and pensions - income that one-fifth of Iraqis heavily rely on.
The complicated process of replacing Abdul Mahdi since November underscored profound divisions within Iraq's political groups, and has been indicative of their deeply rooted and vested interests in the face of crucial reforms. However, Political forces and figures are willingly show signs of positive cooperation with Al-Kadhimi and his program.
Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Sadrist movement leader, said, “I find Al-Kadhimi serious in his work and I hope he has the strength of the heart and the love of the homeland", adding that he gave a deadline of 100 says as an opportunity for Al-Kadhimi's to plans burgeon. It seems that the Sadrists are very serious about time frame of new government's plan. Jamal Fakher, the MP from Alliance towards reform, told Shafaq News Agency that, “if the deadline of 100 days ends and we are not convinced with the performance of the new prime minister, our position will change”.
Al-Kadhimi was able to rebuilt bridges with the head of the State of Law coalition Nuri al-Maliki, who did not give Al-Kadhimi's government parliamentary confidence. On a radio interview, al-Maliki justified the stance of his coalition towards al-Kadhimi government. The coalition, as by al-Maliki, refused the quota-based mechanism of assigning the ministers and, therefore, did not participate in the government. However, he said that he would support any governmental move to provide services, maintain the sovereignty of the state and impose security
That’s why the change in Al-Maliki’s tone, who represents a strong political-parliamentary power in the political game, considered a gain for Al-Kadhimi, although he did not initiate any step in the direction of Al-Maliki’s movement, but merely because of his seriousness and audacity in approaching the matters in his first ten days.
A leader in Al-Fateh coalition, who supports to Al-Kadhimi and his government, and one of the forces close to Iran, said three days ago that, “it is likely that the forces opposing the American presence in Iraq will stop its escalation against the US, there are many reasons, including "the current conditions of Iraq”. Which is an important adjustment in a sensitive matter.
The deputy of Al-Fateh coalition, Haneen Al-Qaddou, told Shafaq News clearly that, "the escalation with the US is not in the interests of the forces opposing the American presence in Iraq, because of the economic, security, health and other conditions that Iraq is going through, also the new government that’s headed by Al-Kadhimi, has good relations with Washington.”
Perhaps one of the most prominent decisions taken by Al-Kadhimi, which caused a positive shock among the Iraqis, was his decision to return Lieutenant-General Abd Al-Wahab Al-Saadi to the Iraqi special operations forces and his promotion to the position of the head of the agency, in the wake of the first session of his government.
Al-Saadi is very popular in the Iraqi street for distancing himself from the internal political games and his complete preoccupation with his military duty, which enabled him to fight a series of successful battles against ISIS in the past years. Only to be dismissed suddenly by Abd Al-Mahdi’s government a few days before the emergence of the popular demonstrations in October.
Al-Kadhimi was aware about Al-Saadi's position. Therefore, this decision enhances the Iraqi impression of his audacity and seriousness in dealing with the detrimental deposits of previous governments.
In the light of the growing threat of ISIS, Al-Kadhimi met with the Iraqi special operations forces’ leaders at their headquarters two days ago, and highlighted "the importance of preserving the independence of this national institution and strengthening its role in protecting the state and the need to keep it away from political interference”.
A day earlier, he visited the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense, which he confirmed is a ministry for "all Iraqis" and stressed on the importance of curbing the phenomenon of loose weapons and security chaos and assigned Juma’a Anad Al-Jubouri, the Minister of Defense, to achieve this sensitive and heavy task which includes, Iraqi’s security, imposing the status of the military establishment and defending the sovereignty, security and stability of Iraq. The orientation of the new government was rapidly implemented as Basra Police Command announced on Monday, closing of the headquarters of "Thaar Allah Islamic Party" in the province, and arresting those in it after shooting and injuring a number of demonstrators.
In the second ministerial cabinet session, Al-Kadhimi outlined the difficult challenges that the government is facing as: The economy, fighting poverty, unemployment amongst the youth, equitable distribution of wealth, moving away from favoritism and political interference and developing state institution; prioritizing the preservation of "the dignity of the citizen and the interests of the country." Which should be an intuitive matter for the state, but a few days ago it was not even in the politicians' agendas.
Al-Kadhimi realizes, as many do, that the results of 2018 elections are still hindering the political reforming efforts, which consequently distorts the expected outcome from them despite the massive effort. Al-Kadhimi has only two years to work before the constitutional date for the new elections comes. As for the early election, if it takes place, it will reduce the period of time that’s available for him to achieve major achievements. Al-Kadhimi, without having a political party or a parliamentary bloc, is paving the road for the next prime minister to succeed.
A prelude to a change in the future. Which is a hope that Iraqis will only be glad have.