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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Current political situation in Iraq may result in the fall of Prime Minister al-Albadi

The current Iraqi political mess appears to be more focused and organized than in the past.  A rump parallel paliament, determined to increase Iranian influence in Baghdad, continues to challenge the authority of the Council of Representatives.  The Iraqi Constitution is written to provide a checks and balances system that is similar to the U.S. Constitution, but Iraqi politics really is about who has the most supporters and authority with the militias.  Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has managed to fight off a number of efforts to remove him from office.  When the war against ISIS goes badly, the various political groups lay-off the anti-Abadi campaign, for fear that if Abadi falls and ISIS takes comtrol of Baghdad, then the Iranians may not be so willing to interfere in Iraqi politics.  But when the military situation is positive, as appears to be the case currently, the effort to remove Abadi and install an Iranian puppet regime.  As long as ISIS constitues a real threat to Iraq, the Iranians will not commit themselves militarily.  Currently the Iranians are content to have operatives on the ground in every province, and to to keep advisors in place with the various Shia militias.  The recent successes on the battlefield have emboldened the pro-Iranian elements to attempt a coup and install a pro-Iranian government while the military situation is positive.  Teheran is a bit more pragmatic than its Shia supporters in Iraq, and will no doubt wait for what it considers to be an ideal environment before commiting regular forces to the conflict in Iraq.

Given the equities involved, why haven't the Iranians moved into Iraqi full-force and push ISIS out of Iraq?  Such an effort would certainly increase the public support for Iran and embarrass the United States, which has been supporting the Abadi Administration with military aid and U.S. Special Forces.  No doubt Iran is determined to control Iraq, and the Iranians would welcome the opportunity to play the role of "liberators", but the Iranian military is not up to the task of providing military support and troops to the Hezbollah-supported effort in Syria.  Iran has a long history of supporting Hezbollah and the de facto president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.  The situation could change dramatically within the next month.  If the Russian effort to prop-up Bashar al-Assad is successful, and the Iranian troops who have been fighting on the Syrian front are welcomed home as victors, the pressure would be on Teheran to follow up the victory in Syria with a successful campaign against ISIS in Iraq.  As things stand, Teheran does not appear to be ready to commit regular military elements into Iraq, especially when Iran has ongoing commitments in Syria and Yemen.  Don't expect to see an increase in Iranian military activity while the conflict in Syria continues.  Teheran loves a military parade, but when it comes to commiting resources in a foreign conflict, the Iranians will be patient and wait until the situation either deteriorates further, or an armistace or ceasefire manages to take hold.  Another variable in the mix is the U.S. political season.  The Iranians will want to know who sits in the Oval Office before embarking on a full-scale military effort in Iraq.  The Iranians do not want a confrontation with the United States, especially given the freedom they have to basically act unilaterally in the region.  The Iranians will be content to continue its efforts in supporting Hezbollah in Syria, and by providing advisors and military specialists to the Shia militias in Iraq.  So much will depend on who sits in the White House in 2017.

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