According to the political norms of the new Iraqi system started being implemented since 2006, the majority of the parliament elected Dr. Barham Salih as president and Dr. Adel Abdul Mahdi as prime minister. The term of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s administration, which succeeded in saving the country from the dangerous conflict that threatened Iraq’s unity, has ended.
Political quotas in Iraq have created norms and not laws that stipulate appointing Kurds as president, a Shiite to the premiership and a Sunni as a speaker of parliament. This is not a good political model because it actually strengthens divisions, sectarianism and racism and it may carry bigger problems.
However, despite these cautions and gaps, it remains the boat that can peacefully transfer Iraq to the banks of a better future. Electing Salih and Abdul Mahdi is an extremely positive step as they represent a moderate duo that’s required in the phase of chaos surrounding Iraq, especially in the two neighbors Syria and Iran, and amid the presence of the sleeping and wakeful remnants of strife inside Iraq from among terrorist groups and armed militias.
Stability is Iraq’s inherited problem since the regime was toppled at the beginning of the millennium, and difficulties increased with chaos, the absence of central authority, foreign interferences and the increase of armed militias’ influenceAbdulrahman al-Rashed
A sigh of relief
Many breathed a sigh of relief after the competition ended and the presidential results were declared. We all look forward to see Iraq independent from foreign interferences and having the time for domestic development; to a dear independent Iraq that with it, the Middle East can close one of the chaos fronts that threaten everyone. We want Iraq to join the list of stable countries. We want Iraq to look after development and meet the needs of its citizens who have been living in miserable and difficult circumstances for 40 years now.
Stability is Iraq’s inherited problem since the regime was toppled at the beginning of the millennium, and difficulties increased with chaos, the absence of central authority, foreign interferences and the increase of armed militias’ influence. According to the latest statistics, Iraq’s population exceeded 38 million. The country’s problems thus increase, and it may need 20 years to provide essential needs of electricity and water and to complete infrastructure projects such as roads, airports and others. In 1979, when Saddam Hussein assumed power, the population was 12 million and Saddam directed expenditure towards militarizing the state and wars.
Electing Salih and Abdul Mahdi brought relief to the region because there was real worry that the political transitional process will be obstructed and there will be a vacuum and disputes over power hence the country will divide and there will be foreign interferences. There was another negative scenario, which is electing someone with loyalties to foreign parties or tendencies to be inclined to foreign parties like Iran. This would put Iraq in huge trouble especially with the implementation of American sanctions on Iran.
Steering away from Iran
We know Dr. Barham Salih as a political figure with extensive positive relations with all regional and international powers. And the same applies to Dr. Adel Abdul Mahdi who was repeatedly nominated for this post in the past years. Despite the natural and expected protests against the quota system, and the regional and partisan rivalry within Iraq itself, the Kurds will need to reform their relationship with the center after their failed separation attempt.
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Baghdad will also need a leadership with a clear vision and a policy that sails away from Iranian pressure that’s trying to benefit from Iraq as its geopolitical extension, and politically use it in confronting regional powers. Also, to economically use it to launder its money, sell its oil and violate prohibitions on imports and militarily use it by the Quds Brigade and the rest of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards which partially succeeded in using some Iraqi militias as cheap soldiers who fight on behalf of the Khamenei regime in Syria, Yemen and other countries.
The American-Iranian dispute, despite its risks and disadvantages, represents a great and unique opportunity for the new Iraqi leadership to sail with the country faraway from Iranian ambitions. Everyone is waiting to hear the new policy from the new leaders in Baghdad and for them to clearly and seriously state that Iraq is for the Iraqis and that the country will not be part of the conflict and will not be a passage for the Revolutionary Guards or a smuggling market.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.