“In Iraq, the risk of escalation between Iran and the United States”

La Croix.com: The Iraqi president has just appointed Adnane Zorfi, the former governor of the Shiite holy city of Nadjaf, on Tuesday (March 17th) to form a government. What is his profile?

Hosham Dawod: As a deputy, Adnane Zorfi sits in the Victory (an-Nasr) parliamentary bloc of former Prime Minister Haïder al-Abadi. After participating in the Shiite uprising that followed Saddam Hussein’s defeat in Kuwait in 1991, he took refuge in Saudi Arabia and then went into exile in the United States. He was on the team that thought about the fall of Saddam Hussein. His appointment as governor of Najaf in 2003 shows his importance for Washington.

In this position, he established good relations with the relatives of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. On the other hand, its relations are strained with the Shiite political-religious parties and religious dignitaries close to the velayat-al-faqih in Iran.

Since the start of the protest movement on October 1, he has taken sides with the protesters but above all with a political objective: he has constantly criticized the government in place and tried to present himself as the alternative. Adnane Zorfi has never hidden his ambition to one day become Prime Minister. He has the opportunity today but he appears to be politically isolated, even among the Shiites, and there is nothing to say that he will obtain the approval of Parliament in 30 days.

What are his chances of success, when his predecessor, Mohammed Allawi, failed to gain the confidence of Parliament?

H. D.: If a message emerges from the uprising, it is the protesters’ will to end the sectarian political logic. He will have to seek support one by one, among the Kurds, the Sunnites and even the Shiites and he will have to give wages to each.

Kurds are used to voting according to their interests, which include the distribution of oil revenues and the preservation of their broad autonomy. For them, as the saying goes, it doesn’t matter the color of the cat as long as it catches mice.

Within the Shiite camp, Adnane Zorfi has the explicit support of Haïder al-Abadi, the former prime minister, the tacit support of the secular current, and probably of a part of the disputing youth. On the other hand, he is known for his position hostile to the militias, for rebalancing the position of Iraq with all its neighbors and for the “institutionalization” of Iraqi political life. For this reason, the party in power since 2003 sees it as a threat, as does Iran.

Who is Mohammed Allawi, the new Iraqi Prime Minister?

Adnane Zorfi is the fifth nominated candidate, the others were all rejected by the street and / or by the Parliament. Will it be the same for him, despite a form of political fatigue felt by the Iraqis? The country has been without government since November 29, and protesters are unable to offer an alternative.

Is the future prime minister the one who will expel American forces from Iraq, as claimed by some pro-Iranian Shiite militias?

H. D.: I do not think that such a law would pass in Parliament, or then only thanks to the Shiite vote, and still only of a part of the Shiite parliamentarians. For the Kurds and the Sunnis, the presence of American forces in Iraq is a form of guarantee against the appetite of the militias and the almost total takeover of Iran.

The risk is rather that of climbing. In recent days, hostilities have resumed. In the past few months, and even more since the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the Americans have suffered numerous attacks. They react with rapid and violent counterattacks, which transform their strategy in Iraq into all-out hostility towards the militias.

“In Iraq, anti-American sentiment is spreading”

Until recently, the Iranians believed that Donald Trump would be re-elected, which would mean an additional four years of suffocation under US sanctions for them. Hence the decisions of Tehran to provoke some mini-military crises with the Americans in the region (in the Gulf, in Iraq or in Syria). It is about forcing Washington, in a delicate electoral moment, to return to the negotiating table.

Iraqi political life is hostage to these conflicts and to a corrupt political class, ready to do anything to stay in power. It demonstrated this with the suppression of the uprising which left more than 600 dead, hundreds of people kidnapped and tortured and more than 20,000 injured. A curfew has just been decreed within the framework of the fight against the coronavirus which will also be a means of extinguishing the dispute. If it started again, I think the repression would be even bloodier.

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