• Login

Three Scenarios

Potential Trajectories for the Formation of Iraq’s Next Government

03 June 2018

The most prominent scenarios for the formation of the next Iraqi government would see either a general consensus among shia, where a quota system is agreed upon for the five Shiite blocs: the Sairoon coalition, the al-Fateh coalition, the State of Law coalition and the al-Hikmah coalition, the creation of a bloc of moderate Shia through an alliance between coalitions led by al-Sadr, al-Hakim and al-Abadi, along with sunni and Kurdish blocs, or the creation of a bloc of extremist Shias that comprises al-Ameri, al-Maliki and al-Abadi, while also seeking to attract al-Hakim and other small blocs. 

The scenario of a moderate shia bloc is the most likely one, because  a general popular consensus among shia is difficult to occur due to the current deep inter-shia divisions. Moreover, the rise of extremist shias would be possible only if al-Abadi refused to give up his position in the Dawa Party as a condition for heading the new government. 

Various Iraqi political forces, namely the Sairoon coalition of the al-Sadist movement, the largest bloc according to the results of the legislative elections, are engaged in intensified talks about the formation of the next Iraqi government. The formation of government requires 165 out of 329 seats to be pulled together, which is not easy given that the results were close in the race between the various alliances.  Worth noting in this context is that, according to the final results of the legislative elections, the Sairoon coalition was the largest winner with 54 seats, followed in the second place by the al-Fateh coalition led by Hadi al-Ameri with 47 seats, then al-Nasr Coalition led by al-Abadi with 42 seats. The State of Law coalition came in fourth with 26 seats, followed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party with 25 seats, the al-Wataniya Coalition (21 seats), al-Hikmah coalition (19), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (18) and the al-QararAl-Iraqi Coalition (11).

The three most potential scenarios for the formation of the next Iraqi government can be outlined as follows, based on moves taken by the various political forces: 

Shia General Consensus 

In this first scenario for the formation of the Iraqi government, a form of quota system would be agreed upon, which is compatible with Tehran's target. This would include all the five Shiite blocs, Sairoon, al-Fateh, al-Nasr, the State of Law and al-Hikmah, which together won 190 seats and accordingly can form the next government. Materialization of this scenario is supported by the following: 

1- Announcement of the al-Hikmah movement on May 20, that the next 72 hours will witness the creation of an alliance between four coalitions that contested in the previous parliamentary elections, and that the Sairoon, the al-Nasr, al-Hikmah and al-Fateh are the most likely allies. 

2- Current intensified efforts being made by Iran represented by Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, to achieve general inter-Shia agreement about the formation of the next Iraqi government. This coincides with al-Sadr’s frequent appeals to all Iraqi major political forces to speed up the formation of a "patriarchal" government at as soon as possible. 

2- Tehran’s bid to groom al-Sadr. This is evidenced by a recent statement made by Iranian ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi who said that relations between the Iranian officials and the leader of the Sadrist movement are friendly and fraternal. Additionally, the Iranian foreign ministry expressed optimism over the results of Iraq’s parliamentary elections and denied what it called "claims" that the Sairoon coalition seeks to expel Iran out of Iraq. This Iranian effort can push al-Sadr to accept to enter into an alliance with al-Ameri and al-Maliki. 

3- Sairoon’s Partial Opening-up to the al-Fateh coalition. This was evidenced by the latest meeting between al-Sadr and al-Hakim. During the meeting, the two sides stressed the need for forming an all-inclusive government that expresses the aspirations of the people. In this context, it should be noted that some figures close to al-Sadr considered this meeting as a goodwill gesture meaning that there are no red lines for alliances. 

Moderate Shiite Bloc 

The Second scenario is the creation of a trilateral alliance between coalitions led by Muqtada al-Sadr, Ammar al-Hakim and Haider al-Abadi, along with smaller blocs, i.e. the sunni al-QararAl-Iraqi Coalition led by Osama al-Nujaifi, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which are both closer to such an alliance. The aim is to deny Hadi al-Ameri the chance to head the government, or prevent Nouri al-Maliki from returning to the government. The following support this scenario: 

1- A meeting between al-Abadi and al-Sadr at the latter’s office in Najaf city, along with relevant reports indicating that al-Sadr proposed that al-Abadi keeps his position as prime minister on the condition that he gives up his current position in the Dawa Party to bring corrupt figures to justice. 

In this context, it should be noted that the leader of al-Wataniya Coalition, Ayad Allawi, during his latest meeting with al-Sadr, set a condition that the prime minister should be out of the Dawa party if the Sadrist movement wants to enter into alliance with the al-Wataniya Coalition to form the government. Accordingly, al-Abadi was nominated by the Sadrist Movement as prime minister, he will have to leave the Dawa party first. 

1- Al-Nasr spokesman Hussein al-Adeli announced that the Sairoon coalition is the closest ally for a new federal government. The latest meeting between al-Sadr and al-Hakim in Najaf, followed by an announcement by the two sides that they are prepared to sit with other winning political blocs, to hold consultations and discuss the formation of a strong national and independent government that goes beyond sectarian alliances. 

2- This alliance previously took al-Abadi to power as prime minister, and countered al-Maliki’s attempts to win another term in 2014. This may push the three parties to form such an alliance once again. 

3- The al-Hikmah movement led by al-Hakim, and the Sadrist al-Ahrar bloc, along with al-Abadi of the Dawa party, all are considered as "moderate shiite" forces in Iraq, something which can tempt the three parties to form an alliance based on ideological convergence between them. 

Extremist Shia Bloc 

This scenario for the formation of the Iraqi government revolves around Iran’s success in creating an alliance between al-Ameri, al-Maliki and al-Abadi (some figures from the Dawa party in the al-Nasr Coalition, and have close ties with Iran), while also seeking to include al-Hakim and other small blocs. Such an alliance will require giving concessions to, and tempting sunni entities, such as the sunni Baghdad coalition led by al-Karbouli, as well as Kurdish parties, namely the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, to encourage them to take part. 

This potential alliance will be primarily loyal to Iran. This scenario is supported by the following: 

1- Tehran’s current role in the formation of the Iraqi government is primarily focused on the current preliminary alliance between al-Ameri and al-Maliki as well as a bid to attract al-Abadi and al-Hakim at a later stage, if possible. 

2- Haider al-Abadi’s possible rejection of the condition reportedly set by the Sairoon coalition and the al-Wataniya Coalition for staying at the helm on the government for another term. The condition implies that he gives up his position in the Dawa party, which can undermine his understandings with al-Sadr and even push him to resort to the current alliance between al-Ameri and al-Maliki. 

Preliminary Assessment 

All three of the above mentioned three scenarios for the formation of the next Iraqi government remain more like assessments based on the positions taken by the various powers to date. It is possible therefore that a different or relatively close scenario would emerge given the changing positions of the involved forces, and the Shiite forces in particular, as well as the current volatility of the Iraqi political arena. 

A coalition of moderate Shiite blocs including Sairoon, al-Nasr and al-Hikmah, is considered a likely one that can accomodate new sunni and powerful entities. However, this will hinge on a number of factors. Most importantly is the continued cohesion of the al-Nasr coalition, the Virtue Party’s continued participation in the al-Nasr coalition, as well as al-Abadi’s agreement to stay in this coalition. 

The coalition of moderate forces would be more independent but not anti-Iranian, and would also be acceptable for Tehran, where Iran-linked entities will stay in this coalition thus ensuring that it will preserve its strategic interests in Iraq. 

The scenario of a general agreement among shia, given that there are forces inside some shia blocs that refuse to fuse with certain shia blocs due to their essential differences. Additionally, experience in forming a government in Iraq after 2003 decreases the chances for this scenario to go through. 

The scenario for extremist shia forces is likely only if al-Abadi rejects the said condition reportedly set the Sairoon and the al-Wataniya Coalition for his continuance at the helm of the government for another term. According to this condition, he will have to give up his position in the Dawa party, a move that can undermine his understandings with al-Sadr and even prompt him to seek to join the current alliance between al-Ameri and al-Maliki. 

It is expected that what will be decisive for any potential scenario is al-Abadi’s bid to get guarantees from various coalitions for staying as prime minister for another term. A national Shiite alliance will suffer from increasing cracks in the coming period, given the volatile situation in the shiite bloc, its changing map of alliances as well as adversary movements by both the State of Law coalition and the al-Fateh coalition.