Iraq’s Most Powerful Politician Just Caused “Tectonic Shift”

Editor’s Note: A version of this story first appeared in the CNN newsletter Meanwhile in the Middle East, a look three times a week on the region’s top stories. Sign up here.


Cairo, Egypt
CNN

After eight months of political paralysis, the king of Iraqi politics ordered his bloc to withdraw from parliament.

The resignation of the entire group of 73 lawmakers of the Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is the biggest jolt in Iraqi politics since the October elections saw Iranian-backed Shia blocs lose seats to Sadrists. The Sadrists now appear to have withdrawn from parliamentary politics.

“This is a tectonic shift that threatens to derail the post-2003 political order as a whole,” said Ranj Alaaldin, a non-resident member of the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, DC.

In a handwritten statement, Sadr said his call for the resignation of his lawmakers was “a sacrifice on my part for the country and the people to free them from their unknown fate.”

Sajad Jiyad, a member of The Century Foundation think tank in Washington DC, said the move “changed the political discourse”.

The religious is immensely popular in Iraq. For years he has positioned himself against Iran and the United States, and in October he emerged as the biggest winner of a parliamentary election that threatened to cast aside the Iranian-aligned Shia blocs that have long dominated the country. politics of the oil-rich country.

But politics has been in a stalemate since then as squabbles and allegations of corruption stalled presidential elections and hindered the formation of a government.

“If the Sadrist bloc remains [in parliament] it is an obstacle to the formation of the government, so all lawmakers in the bloc are honorably prepared to resign from parliament, ”Sadr said in a televised speech Thursday as he prepared the groundwork for his resignation.

Experts say that under the procedure, once a legislator has resigned and the process has been finalized, the next legislator with the most votes steps in as a replacement.

“This will redistribute 73 parliamentary seats across various political blocs,” Abbas Kadhim, a senior member of the Atlantic Council think tank, wrote on Twitter, adding that Iranian-aligned Shiites should take those seats, along with some independents.

So is Sadr giving in to Iranian-backed groups, or is it simply an attempt to show his power on the streets, where he has enormous influence? Analysts say he is likely to be second.

“Sadr’s secret weapon is his vast base network of supporters and domination on the street,” said Alaaldin, adding that “the withdrawal of the Sadrist MPs is a signal of the intention to face his rivals on the street.”

The resignation came after Iranian-aligned Shia blocs opposed Sadr’s government formation initiative, said Ihsan Al-Shammari, a professor of politics at Baghdad University and head of the Iraqi Center for Political Thought. . It also comes when Sadr realizes that he cannot create a national majority government by obstructing the rival bloc.

Sadr could signal to his supporters that he has done everything possible to try to form a government with his Iranian-aligned Shia rivals, Jiyad said. The move could also be a threat to other parties, showing them they can’t do without him, he added.

The cleric’s influence is far from waning, Al-Shammari said. “Sadr will continue in the direction of the popular opposition … I think [this] it will double its political power ”.

Analysts say the exclusion of Sadr and his party from the government will cause chaos and that any government born of Sadr’s isolation “will be dead”.

“This will lead to the anger of Iraqis and Sadr supporters,” Al-Shammari said. “They will not accept to see their leader politically broken or isolated.”

Iran and Venezuela, sanctioned by the United States, sign a twenty-year cooperation agreement

Iran and Venezuela signed a 20-year cooperation plan in Tehran on Saturday, with the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic saying the two allies will continue to resist pressure from Washington.

  • Background: The plan calls for increased cooperation in the oil, petrochemical, defense, agriculture and tourism sectors. The signing was overseen by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro in northern Tehran. Maduro also said a weekly flight from Caracas to Tehran will begin on July 18.
  • Because matter: The two oil producers are subject to heavy US sanctions. The ties have deepened between them, especially within their oil sectors in what Iran says is resistance to US pressure.

The United Arab Emirates bans the screening of the film “Year of Light” for violation of the contents

The United Arab Emirates on Monday banned the public screening of the Walt Disney-Pixar animated film “Lightyear” in theaters before its release this week, a government agency said. The Media Regulatory Office of the Ministry of Youth and Culture tweeted that the film violated the country’s media content standards, without specifying the violation.

  • Background: The film reportedly includes a same-sex kiss between two women who are in a relationship. Like many other Middle Eastern nations, same-sex relationships are criminalized in the UAE. The film, centered around the action character Buzz Lightyear from the popular Toy Story franchise series, was already billed for release in the United Arab Emirates on June 16.
  • Because matter: In the past, the UAE has avoided uniting with neighboring Arab nations by banning films featuring homosexual themes. Censorship in Arab states has banned these films in recent times as production studios refuse to accept cuts. Films like Eternals and Doctor Strange 2 have been banned this year in several Arab countries, but not in the UAE.

NATO chief says Turkey’s security concerns are legitimate

The security concerns raised by Turkey in its opposition to Finland and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership are legitimate, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on a visit to Finland on Sunday. “We must remember and understand that no NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkiye,” Stoltenberg said.

  • Background: Sweden and Finland said they wanted to join the Western defense alliance last month, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But they faced opposition from Turkey, which accused them of supporting and hosting Kurdish militants and other groups it deems terrorists.
  • Because matter: Despite being a NATO member, Turkey has maintained cordial ties with Moscow as it declares war on Ukraine. All member countries must approve new entrants to the NATO military alliance.

A 98-million-year-old fossil discovered in the Egyptian desert six years ago was revealed to be a new type of large-bodied carnivorous dinosaur.

An expedition team from the Egyptian University of Mansoura unearthed the fossil at Bahariya Oasis in the country’s western desert region in 2016. The fossil was identified in a study published Wednesday by the British Royal Society as “the oldest definitive testimony of the clade from Egypt and north-east Africa “.

The yet to be named species belongs to a dinosaur family called “Abelisauridae”, described by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History as “a species of bulldog-faced, small-toothed, tiny-armed theropod that is estimated to have been about six meters long. (20 feet) “.

“The Bahariya Oasis would have been one of the most terrifying places on the planet … how all these huge predators managed to coexist remains a mystery,” said studio leader Belal Salem from the Carnegie Museum.

The oasis is a gold mine for paleontologists due to the variety of fossils found there. Unfortunately, all the fossils collected there before the Second World War were destroyed. In 1944, a collection of fossils discovered by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer was obliterated by Allied bombs that hit a building housing the collection in Munich.

By Muhammad Abdelbary