At the very end of November 2019 Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi resigned from office. That led to political deadlock as the Binna bloc led by Badr’s Hadi Amiri proposed several candidates backed by Iran only to have President Barham Salah reject them fearing that they would increase popular protests against the government. Iraq’s ruling parties usually take months to agree upon a new government, so this process was only in its infancy. Iran and Abdul Mahdi had plans of their own.
Tehran and the retired premier decided to derail talk of forming a new administration by focusing upon removing U.S. troops from Iraq. This was seen as a unifying factor as many of the Shiite parties had already been talking about it for weeks. It also led to some of Iran’s allies to push for Abdul Mahdi to stay in office. On January 8 for instance, Al Mada reported that some Shiite parties were floating Abdul Mahdi’s name to see if he could garner support. Then on January 11, this became a full-fledged campaign as Abdul Mahdi travelled to Kurdistan to talk to the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan about him staying on, while Amiri met with Moqtada al-Sadr in Iran. Al Forat even mentioned that a deal was made with Sadr, but that was disputed by his followers. Having Abdul Mahdi remain as premier would satisfy many groups. One, he has been accommodating to Iran allowing its Hashd friends to carry out attacks upon U.S. interests and even Saudi Arabia, and consolidate its power within the government. He also won over the Kurds by providing their monthly payments without requiring them to export oil for Baghdad as required by the budget. Of course, this would incense the protests who helped force Abdul Mahdi from office. There has already been renewed clashes with the security forces in Baghdad and the south, perhaps in part inspired by these rumors in the media.
It will be up to Iran and Abdul Mahdi and how much pressure and concessions they are willing to give to opposition figures like Sadr, Ammar Hakim, and Haidar Abadi to see if these stories become a reality.
Al Forat, “A deputy from Al-Bina, proposing an agreement between Al-Sadr and Al-Amiri regarding Abdul-Mahdi,” 1/12/20
Al Mada, “Abdul-Mahdi in the Kurdistan region to discuss government formation and the foreign presence,” 1/11/20
- “Al-Fatah and State of Law speak of a near-agreement to reassign Abdul-Mahdi,” 1/12/20
- “Shiite forces launch test balloons by offering to reassign Abdul-Mahdi,” 1/8/20