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What We're Watching: A powder keg in Iraq

Iraqi PM's narrow escape. Iraq's PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi is lucky to be alive after a barrage of explosives was fired at his compound inside a high-security zone, injuring several security personnel. The brazen attack was carried out by pro-Iran militias, who have been violently calling for a recount since their parties did poorly in the recent parliamentary elections. On Friday, the militias tried to breach the fortified area known as the "Green Zone," which includes the PM's compound and Western embassies. Pro-Iran factions are particularly worried that Shia Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — whose party won the biggest share of votes and is trying to form a government — will try to temper Tehran's growing influence over the oil-rich country. (Al-Sadr has called for way less foreign interference in Iraq from Iran and the West). Even before the recent unrest, things weren't going well in Iraq, where power supplies are scarce and the economy is in shambles. What's more, Iraqis have little faith in the political elite's ability to fix things, as was reflected in the record-low election turnout. We're watching to see if this latest round of violence begets… more violence.

What We're Watching: Few Iraqis vote, Czech Republic in crisis, China-India talks crash again

Iraq's dud of an election: Just 41 percent of eligible Iraqi voters showed up at the polls this weekend, the lowest turnout in the post-Saddam Hussein era. Lack of enthusiasm for the vote – the first since mass protests in 2019 over political corruption and economic stagnation prompted a fierce crackdown – shows the depths of popular dissatisfaction with the political elite. The election came as Iraq grapples with crumbling infrastructure, a moribund economy, and ongoing sectarian strife among Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish players, with Iran meddling on behalf of the Shia groups. Preliminary results show that no candidate is on a path to win a clear majority, meaning that negotiations to choose a PM tasked with forming a government could take weeks or even months. Gulf countries and the US are hoping for a moderate who can ensure the stability of Iraq and challenge Iran's clout in the region. Iraq's current prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, in some ways fits the bill, having played a key role in mediating negotiations between longtime rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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Men walk near election campaign posters ahead of the parliamentary election in Mosul, Iraq.

REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

Iraq has elections this weekend — will anybody show up?

Iraq will hold on Sunday its fifth election since the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, and the first since a widespread protest movement in 2019 ousted the government in place at that time. Over 900 candidates are vying for 329 parliamentary seats against a backdrop of still-elevated economic, social, and security tensions in the oil-rich country. Eurasia Group analyst Sofia Meranto explains what's at stake in the vote.

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