Muqtada al-Sadr and me: Chicago on the Tigris

Michael Flanagan
Michael Flanagan
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When I requested that the State Department give me the post of Senior Rule of Law Advisor for Maysan Province during the reconstruction of Iraq, a wag there quipped that my being a politician originally from Chicago now living in Washington made me a natural expert in both financial corruption and vote fraud – you know, the perfect candidate.

Last week, I allowed my enthusiasm for burgeoning Iraqi Nationalism expressed by Muqtada al-Sadr to override my usual cynicism. A mistake I will not allow again.

Al-Sadr has used and abused everyone supporting his stated dreams for Iraq just to gain power and has betrayed what could have been a huge success for Iraqis and for himself.

ALSO READ: Muqtada Al Sadr and me: From Iran ties to a pan-Arab hero

He has all-but-discarded the members of his coalition and embraced the second largest vote bloc – the assortment of Iranian parties voting blocs and parties running under the banner Al-Fateh – and is seeking to form a pro-Iranian government. This is an express refutation of his platform while running.

Al-Sadr says that he is doing this to avoid a civil war. This is quite convenient for him as the only party threatening civil war is the Sadrists. Just where exactly are we and how did we get here?

If Sadr actually joins with the Iranian parties, his own coalition will likely desert him for the “old actors” as they are called and the State of Law Party and other associated parties will benefit from their defection

Michael Flanagan

Dubious fire

It is a story that would make any Chicago pol giggle with admiration. First, the voter registration verification machines were destroyed.

This act was accomplished by a very dubious fire just before the election having the impact of allowing everyone to cast an electronic ballot (or three if they liked!). Additionally, some of the actual physical ballot boxes in Sadr City were burned as well. Not since Emperor Nero has fire been so similarly “helpful.”

The Sadr City electronic votes were so many that they almost reached the level of their previous election totals far surpassing the turnout totals for any other bloc in an otherwise very low-turnout election.

The destruction of the verification machines and select ballot boxes also allowed for almost limitless fraudulent ballots from outside of Iraq including highly suspect ballots ostensibly from Peshmerga fighters. For example, one polling place in Lebanon, supposedly received over two thousand votes!

ALSO READ: Muqtada al-Sadr and me: The evolution of a nationalistic populist

The national commission empowered to make the actual count (the IHEC) is also under fire for suspected corruption and has been attacked publicly to such an extent that they have been removed from making the count and being replaced with a panel of judges to oversee the count.

With all of these rampant “irregularities” happening, the losers in the election successfully brought a bill to parliament, which will: 1) invalidate the electronic count entirely and requiring a paper ballot count to be made; and 2) make the paper ballot count to become the official count.

There are several challenges to this act made by Sadr, both of the major Kurd parties and the Iraqi President among others. The decision will be handed down on Thursday of this week.

Clearly, the Sadrists have never heard the political axiom: “Pigs get fat but hogs get slaughtered.” That is, small thieves will often get away with their crimes and grow fat but huge thieves will get caught and bad things will result.

The Sadrist overreach here is so gross and careless that they are surely going to be caught and punished. If that were not enough, Sadr’s coalition partners make up 36 of the 54 seats his winning coalition.

Iranian parties

If Sadr actually joins with the Iranian parties, his own coalition will likely desert him for the “old actors” as they are called and the State of Law Party (al-Abadi, al-Mailiki) and other associated parties will benefit from their defection. This will leave Sadr with nothing near a majority of seats in Parliament and almost no chance to form a government.

Sensing this eventual reality, current PM al-Abadi has called for all-party talks by all parties to form a government. It is certain that whatever that government is it will not have a majority in Parliament but be a consensual, grand coalition.

ALSO READ: Muqtada al-Sadr and me: US foreign policy goals and Iraq’s future

Al-Sadr had a chance to be a great man. Instead he has chosen to be a meaningless and ridiculous pawn of secret, foreign forces. He has sold-out Iraqi Nationalism and has proven to be a thief and vote fraud.

He should be prosecuted – not just for the vote fraud he and his followers have certainly committed but for betraying the love and trust of the Iraqi people. Iraqis voted for him and his coalition in droves because he promised honest leaders, an end to corruption, Iraqi Nationalism and complete freedom from foreign interests.

Having procured his “victory” based on fraud, he can never deliver on these things. I am fairly certain that he never wanted to.

NEXT PIECE: The result of the appeal and the possible futures of Iraq.
Michael Patrick Flanagan represented the 5th District of Illinois in the historic 104th Congress. He sat on the Committees on the Judiciary, Government Reform and Oversight, and Veterans’ Affairs. Prior to his Congressional Service, Michael was commissioned in the United States Army Field Artillery. After leaving Congress, Michael and his firm, Flanagan Consulting LLC, have represented both large and small corporations, organizations, and associations. In 2009, Michael took a sabbatical from his lobbying business and entered public service again with the United States Department of State in Iraq as the Senior Rule of Law Advisor on the Maysan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Maysan, Iraq. For his work, Michael was awarded the Man of the Year by the Iraqi Courts, the Civilian Service Medal by the US Army and was also given the Individual Distinguished Honor Award. Michael is currently a consultant in Washington, D.C. His email ID is [email protected].

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