Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

The Man Who Could Shape Iraq’s Future

Krishnadev Calamur writes for The Atlantic:

Moqtada al-Sadr won’t be Iraq’s next prime minister, but he may very well decide who is. It’s a striking outcome for the Shia cleric who forged a reputation as a radical in the insurgency he led against the U.S. after the invasion of 2003, and who then defined himself as an Iraqi nationalist through his defiance of Iran. Over this period, Sadr has become an insider in Iraqi politics, but ahead of the country’s Saturday parliamentary elections he fashioned himself into an anti-corruption crusader and political outsider by building a coalition that includes communists, Sunnis, and political independents. His al-Sairoon Coalition (The Marchers) finished first in the vote, ensuring his relevance for years to come.

Al-Sairoon’s performance suggests that Iraq, which has only recently emerged from a brutal conflict against ISIS, might be tired of the political class that has governed the country since its first parliamentary elections in 2005. What’s not clear, however, is whether Sadr, whose brand is predicated on protest and opposition, can evolve into a constructive force in Iraqi politics.

Click here for the entire story

Sacked defence minister shrugs off corruption impeachment in election resurgence

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq’s ousted defence minister, who was controversially dismissed over corruption allegations, has made a roaring comeback in the country's elections.

Khalid Al Obeidi led Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi's Victory alliance in Ninewa in Saturday's polls, winning eight out of the province's 31 seats in the 328 seat parliament, demonstrating the enduring support for Mosul’s military man.

On Monday, Mr Al Obeidi led a triumphant press conference to announce that the Victory alliance had won more seats than any other in Ninewa, although he cautioned the count was still preliminary.

Click here for the entire story

Iraqi Election Front-Runner Moktada al-Sadr Courts Partners to Govern

Margaret Coker writes for The New York Times:

The front-runner in Iraqi elections, the populist Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, wasted little time trying to prove to potential allies that he is serious about shaking up the government and cleaning up corruption as he worked to cobble together a governing coalition.

His spokesman, Saleh al-Obeidi, said in an interview in Baghdad on Tuesday that Mr. Sadr’s movement is seeking allies who agree to its three-plank manifesto: ending the practice of awarding ministries on sectarian quotas, fighting corruption and allowing independent technocrats to manage key government agencies.

“Sai’id Moktada wants to bring Iraq out of crisis and out of misery,” Mr. Obeidi said, using an honorific. “We want to start a whole new way of doing things.”

Click here for the entire story

Iraq’s Abadi congratulates Sadr on election performance

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi telephoned Moqtada Al Sadr on Tuesday in what appeared to be a political concession after the Shiite cleric took the largest number of parliamentary seats in the country's weekend election.

Final results have been delayed amid allegations of vote rigging in northern Iraq, with some Kurdish parties demanding a re-run of the weekend's poll.

A statement from Mr Al Sadr’s office said the premier praised the cleric for helping foster “a secure, democratic atmosphere,” during the campaign and vote.

Click here for the entire story

Firebrand cleric Muqtada Sadr’s alliance holds a surprise lead in Iraq elections

Nabih Bulos reports for LA Times:

An alliance led by Muqtada Sadr, the anti-U.S. firebrand cleric-turned-reformist, was leading Iraq's parliamentary elections in preliminary results announced early Monday.

A victory for Sadr would be a major upset for Prime Minister Haider Abadi, who led the country during its four-year battle against Islamic State and is supported by the U.S. and other Western nations.

Abadi was widely seen as the front-runner. But with the vote tallied in 10 of the country's 19 provinces, he was in third, well behind both Sadr and an alliance of paramilitary factions, many of which are supported by Iran and led by Shiite militia leader Hadi Ameri.

Click here for the entire story

As Iraq moves on with vote, Falluja trapped by sins of the past

Ahmed Aboulenein writes for Reuters:

Braving a nationwide driving ban, hundreds of Iraqis walked through Falluja and stepped over barbed wire surrounding a school to vote in a parliamentary election they hope will help a city far from recovering from years of conflict and upheaval.

For them the election is not merely the first since the Islamic State militants who seized their city four years ago were defeated. Falluja’s suffering is multi-layered.

It is also the first vote since U.S. troops who invaded Iraq in 2003 and pulverized much of their city in an offensive against insurgents left the country in 2011.

Click here for the entire story

A Shia Cleric’s Radical Vision for Iraq

Krishnadev Calamur writes for The Atlantic:

Soon after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, a CBS News crew interviewed a young Shia cleric who explained what was happening in his country this way: “The little serpent has left,” Moqtada al-Sadr said, referring to the ousted dictator, “and the great serpent [the United States] has come.”

In the early days of the post-Saddam era, U.S. military officials variously described Sadr as an “annoyance” and a “thug.” But he quickly transformed himself into an influential—and controversial—figure. His fighters committed brutal atrocities in the post-invasion violence, fought the U.S. military in Sadr City and Basra, and were known for their corruption. A 2006 Newsweek cover story even labeled Sadr “the most dangerous man in Iraq.” Fifteen years after the fall of Saddam, Sadr, now 44 years old, is warily viewed as a potential kingmaker in Iraq’s parliamentary elections on Saturday. In a country riven by sectarian tensions and regional politics, Sadr has transformed himself again: He has now positioned himself as an Iraqi nationalist; allied himself with communists, Sunnis, and political independents; criticized Iran’s outsized influence in Iraq; and strongly criticized the sectarian nature of Iraq’s politics.

Click here for the entire story

In Iraq’s crumbling Basra, a yearning for a better past

Ulf Laessing writes for Reuters:

When Iraqi merchant Jabar Mohamed was growing up in the southern port city of Basra, he liked to watch boats gliding along a canal lined with palm trees and ancient buildings near his home.

Once dubbed the “Venice of the Middle East” for its network of canals resembling the Italian city, Basra was a magnet for Middle Eastern tourists until the early 1980s.

Today the cherished canal of Mohamed’s youth is a reeking, refuse-filled cesspool forcing passersby to cover their mouths.

Click here for the entire story

Iraqi voters are fed up with the old guard

The Economist reports:

Haider al-Abadi, the prime minister of Iraq, has a strong case for re-election. He has overseen the defeat of Islamic State (IS), which once held vast portions of the country. He denied a Kurdish push for independence last year. Oil production is near record levels and rising. And he has learned to play foreign powers off against each other. No wonder he calls his inclusive electoral list of Shias, Sunnis and Kurds the “Victory Alliance”.

But as Iraqis go to the polls to elect a new parliament on May 12th, many will be thinking about the economy. Unemployment is up and salaries are down. GDP per person has fallen from almost $7,000 in 2013 to under $5,000 last year. Much of this is a result of the war with IS. Mr Abadi, though, has failed to tackle corruption, increase transparency or reform the system by which ministries are divvied up (and plundered) by sect and ethnicity. He shies away from a showdown with fellow Shia politicians who have ruled Iraq since America installed them 15 years ago.

Click here for the entire story

Trump’s Iran decision puts Iraq leaders to the test

Samia Nakhoul writes for Reuters:

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal has cast a shadow over an already fraught election in Iraq, where Tehran and Washington have vied for influence since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The removal of a Sunni dictatorship cleared the path for the country’s Shi’ite majority, from which the three top contenders for the premiership, including incumbent Haider al-Abadi, are drawn. The outcome of the May 12 ballot is too close to call.

Click here for the entire story