Muqtada al-Sadr and the future of Iraq

Michael Flanagan
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The Iraqi elections in May have been marred with corruption, theft, fraud and mass abstentions by honorable Iraqis looking to not participate in the sham. Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc won the elections and gained the right to form a government. He did so by a combination of factors.

First, there was a record low turnout by Iraqis boycotting the elections because of pervasive government corruption and a lack of trust in the system. Al-Sadr’s bloc showed up in ordinary numbers while all of the opposing blocs had record lows in their respective turnouts.

Second, al-Sadr’s group performed mass vote fraud by destroying the registration machines in a suspicious fire and then by destroying actual paper ballots in another suspicious fire hopefully forcing the (now unreliable) electronic ballots to be used. The origins of these fires are not proved yet but al-Sadr’s involvement is the biggest open secret in Iraq since the days of Saddam.

Third, al-Sadr actually gained legitimate votes and bloc partners by preaching a popular message of Iraqi Nationalism, anti-corruption and honest government. Iraqis are starved for an honest, Iraq-First government and al-Sadr held out that possibility, however illusory the promise turned out to be.

The legitimate installation of al-Sadr and his cronies in the highest seats of power in Baghdad may take Iraqis on a very short road to destruction

Michael Flanagan

Invalidate ballots

In response to this outcome, the Iraqi Parliament (filled with parliamentarians who are losing their jobs) voted to invalidate all of the electronic ballots on the grounds of fraud and require that a manual recount be taken in all of Iraq.

Parliament also invalidated the votes cast outside of Iraq by ex-pats and soldiers – especially the Peshmerga (the Kurdish Militia). Last, Parliament ousted the National Electoral Commission and replaced it with a better-respected panel of judges.

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This law was immediately challenged by the sitting President of Iraq, the Kurdish parties and others. On Thursday of last week, the Supreme Federal Court of Iraq ruled on the challenge to that new law and largely upheld the actions by Parliament.

There will be a manual recount of electronic balloting but not the entire country – only the parts of Iraq where fraud was alleged. Also, the court upheld the appeal by requiring that the votes cast outside of Iraq will not be invalidated and will be counted.

Iranian bloc

Al-Sadr largely won his points and his majority will likely hold up. Since the election, al-Sadr’s bloc has gained the support of the Iranian bloc. Additionally since the appeal’s failure, al-Sadr has gained the support of the current Prime Minister, Hayder al-Abadi, in the naked hope of remaining prime minister.

Al-Sadr still lacks sufficient votes to declare a majority and must work with additional partners to form the next Iraqi government. This will be hard being that al Sadr has sacrificed all of his credibility and will now need to horse-trade for power. This process is exactly what he ran against but apparently never meant to put into practice.

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Additionally, his situation is further complicated by the possibility of his bloc partners (the Communists among others) defecting from al Sadr because his promises of an honest government turned-out to be a lie.

The matter is now with the Iraqi people to decide whether they want an honest government dedicated to Iraqi nationalism, honesty, integrity and success, or, to have another group of leaders rob and pillage the country for they own wants and needs in the exercise illegitimate power with stolen money.

Lack of honesty

Sadr’s militia is a scary proposition to oppose but now is the time to strike before he gains more power and capacity. His lack of honesty, fair dealings and devotion to Iranian interests makes al Sadr dangerous to all Iraqis. It is not an overstatement that he could easily be another Saddam in the making and Iraqis should be wary and act now, while they still can.

They should protest constantly, forcefully and demand another election. At that election, they should actually show-up this time and vote and elect an honest government. It is clear that the message of an honest government is a wining message and such a candidate would prevail in a re-election if held.

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

In one fell swoop, the Iraqi population could throw out a corrupt sitting government and blunt the efforts of a dangerous demagogue whose allegiance is to Iranian interests and not to Iraqi nationalism as it should be.

The legitimate installation of al-Sadr and his cronies in the highest seats of power in Baghdad may take Iraqis on a very short road to destruction. If he is willing to lie about his principles to get elected, why would he respect the law if installed?

The success of al-Sadr in forming a coalition will not only fail to hold the promise of a new day for Iraq but may herald the beginning of the end of Iraqi democracy. Now is the time to act.

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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