America Shouldn’t Rush to Condemn Sadr’s Electoral Victory in Iraq—Yet

    Matthew Reisener

    Security, Middle East

    Demonstrators wave Iraqi flags during an anti-U.S. protest called by fiery cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, marking the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad April 9, 2007. Baghdad was under curfew on Monday on the fourth anniversary of the fall of the capital to U.S. forces. REUTERS/Ceerwan Aziz

    Iraq may be left with a ruling coalition that can moderate the Sadrists’ worst impulses while also addressing many of the structural problems that plague Iraqi democracy.

    Iraq’s recent parliamentary elections left many Western observers disappointed after the current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Victory Alliance failed to match the significant gains by its rival al-Sairoon. The electoral list of al-Sairoon was built around the political vision of controversial Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr has long been viewed as a nuisance to the United States due to his control of a Shia paramilitary group known as the Mahdi Army that frequently clashed with U.S. forces during their initial occupation of Iraq. In addition, Sadr’s May 30 reference to the United States as an “invader country,” which cannot be allowed to interfere in internal Iraqi politics led many journalists to question whether a Sadrist Iraqi government might prove openly hostile to the United States.

    While there are many reasons to be concerned with Sadr’s rise to political prominence, his strong anti-Iran stance and fervent desire to root out political corruption in Iraq could ultimately produce many positive outcomes for the fledgling democracy. If the Sadrists can form a new government that effectively crosses sectarian and political lines, Iraq may be left with a ruling coalition that can moderate the Sadrists’ worst impulses while also addressing many of the structural problems that plague Iraqi democracy.

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