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    Iraqi elections could determine the future of the country’s U.S. military

    Baghdad — Iraqis have begun voting in parliamentary elections. This shows how Baghdad navigates the broader geopolitical power struggle between Washington and Tehran, and could shape the future of the US military, which is still based there.

    The Sunday elections, which were raised as a concession to the protests that began in 2019, are dominated by issues that have caused growing dissent. Economic crisis And endemic rot.

    But it is also dominated by the struggle between the Iranian-backed militia and the United States. The United States has an army of about 2,500 in the country, and political pressure to leave Iraq is increasing. Leave Afghanistan..

    Most of the year, the country was involved in a spiral of violence between Iran-backed militia groups and the US military. The US military launched air strikes in response to rocket and drone attacks on the base.President Biden Agreed to withdraw US combat troops from Iraq By the end of the year, most of the 2,500 soldiers will remain in the country in training and support roles.

    Conflicts are getting worse with increasing tensions Collapsed government services.. Long blackouts plagued the country for most of the summer, when the Iraqis endured some of the hottest temperatures on earth.

    Voters will cast ballots in Kerbara, Iraq on Sunday.


    Photo:

    ABDULLAH DHIAA AL-DEEN / REUTERS

    Iraq’s political system, in which multiple parties compete for votes from different denominational groups, means that elections are unlikely to have decisive consequences. Instead, negotiations for weeks or months to form a government may continue.

    A series of Sunni and Shiite Arab Muslim parties are competing with another group of parties seeking Kurdish votes, concentrated in the northern part of the country.

    Opinion polls predict that the block, led by populist Shiite priest Moctada al-Saddle, will gain the largest share of parliamentary seats, and as a result he will again be in negotiations to reshape the government. Become a king maker.

    Mr. Saddle’s block won the largest seat in the latest Iraqi elections in 2018 in an alliance with the Iraqi Communist Party.A former rebel leader after the U.S. invasion, a champion of Iraqi sheets living in urban poverty, he is also an opponent of the U.S. military. Iran’s growing influence, Different from other Shiite politicians. He also voiced several attacks on the country’s US interests.

    A poll from the Iraqi think tank Rafidyne Dialogue Center predicts that Mr. Saddle’s block will win 42 out of 54 seats in the 2018 elections.

    The survey predicted turnout to be as low as 38% to 42%, reflecting widespread political disillusionment.

    “Protesters and young people don’t think they can get accountability or justice from current politicians,” said Sajad Jad, a political analyst at the Century Foundation, an American think tank based in Baghdad. Stated.

    “I don’t think they can achieve results through ballot boxes,” he said.

    Iraq’s current leader, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadimi Appointed in the aftermath of protests last year, Not run in elections. Instead, he seems to be positioning himself to stay in place through post-election arrangements between the country’s rival political powers, analysts said. But he faced strong opposition from Iranian-backed groups accusing him of killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes in the United States in 2020. ing.

    one The largest militia supported by IranHow the Hezbollah Brigade has grown politically since it first ran for the first time in a direct election, supported 32 candidates and played an important role in the fight against Islamic State in 2014. Is shown. He urged his supporters to vote and urged them to “achieve a victory that pleases your martyr” on Thursday.

    Still, many of the same politicians and factions have been vying for votes since the U.S. invasion that defeated Saddam Hussein in 2003, and many Iraqis boycott elections that they consider to be designed to strengthen the status quo. It says it is planned.

    “I don’t see hope on the horizon,” said Sabah Khalaf, a 45-year-old civil servant in Baghdad, who said he would not vote.

    Instead, some Iraqis are looking at street protests as a means of forcing change in the way the country works.Extensive demonstration Eruption in Iraq in 2019Consistently ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, the Iranian militia group demands drastic reforms in an increasingly politically-held state. According to the Iraqi High Commissioner for Human Rights, security forces severely suppressed the demonstrations and killed more than 600 people.

    “”“I don’t see hope on the horizon.”


    — Sabah Khalaf, a civil servant who does not plan to vote

    At least 35 activists have died in targeted killings since the start of the protest, including researcher Ihab al-Wazni, whose killing in May caused another wave of protests, according to the commission.

    The protests have also spawned a small group of political parties that are currently seeking parliamentary seats.

    “We are determined to focus on Iraqi integrity,” says Mushrek al-Fraisi, the leader of the party called Proof of Rights.

    Write to Jared Malsin at jared.malsin@wsj.com

    Copyright © 2021 DowJones & Company, Inc. all rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

    Iraqi elections could determine the future of the country’s U.S. military

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