Warring Brothers: Power Struggle and the Fate of Reforms in Iraq

Arab Reform Initiative - Warring Brothers: Power Struggle and the Fate of Reforms in Iraq
© Ali Abbas / EPA

The multilayered negotiations among Iraqi political forces to form a new cabinet, and the paralysis of state institutions, conceal the multifaceted power struggle between the various Iraqi political blocs and in particular within the Shiite bloc. Three types of protagonists can be identified: those trying to dominate the political scene, those fearing marginalisation and thus adopting a defensive position, and those strengthening their position as key actors. Only the pressure from external powers (the U.S. and Iran) and the harsh conditions of international monetary institutions can push the warring political blocs to reach an agreement over the cabinet overhaul and overcome the current impasse. However, reducing reforms to a meager cabinet reshuffle is far from satisfying popular demands and could provide only an ad-hoc way out of the ongoing crisis. Moreover, the Iraqi government’s violent reaction toward the second Green Zone breach does not bode well for the coming period. The tone is set: there is no longer room for popular grievances. The liberation of Iraqi territories under the control of the Islamic State seems to be the top priority of the Iraqi prime minister and the foreign/regional powers supporting him.

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.