Iran’s Proxies Authorized to Compete in Iraq’s 2018 Election

Thursday, November 9, 2017 – By: Omer Kassim – Institute for the study of war – I ran’s proxies in Iraq have a green light to parlay their military gains into political power in Iraq’s May 2018 elections.Iranian proxies dominate Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The Iranian proxy-dominated PMF institution has expanded its reach and popularity through a heavy involvement in recent operations against ISIS and Iraqi Kurdistan. The Iraqi government’s Popular Mobilization Commission Law prohibits individuals associated with the PMF from running for political office unless they leave the force. The law is an attempt to constrain the political influence of Iran’s powerful military proxies. Yet those Iranian proxies are shifting members into new political parties and setting conditions to extend their influence in the forthcoming Iraqi elections.

Iraq’s High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has authorized two more Iranian proxy political parties to run candidates in Iraq’s next parliamentary elections, currently scheduled for May 2018. IHEC must grant Iraqi political parties a new license each election in order to allow that party to compete. IHEC has been licensing political parties for the 2018 elections intermittently since January 2017. It licensed the Badr Organization’s political wing in February 2017. The Iraqi Parliament voted in a new IHEC on October 23 after the end of the previous commission’s term. The new IHEC granted an additional six licenses to smaller political parties on November 6, including the political arm of Iran’s elite proxy militia Asa’ib Ahl al Haq, the Sadiqoon Movement. The Sadiqoon Movement won its first seat in the Iraqi Parliament in 2014. IHEC also granted a license to al Tayyar al Risali al Iraqi al Jadid­, the political arm of the Iranian-backed Kata’ib al Tayyar al Risali. The party is within the State of Law Coalition aligned with Vice President Nouri al Maliki, whose post-2011 sectarian campaign as prime minister enabled ISIS’ rise.

The Badr Organization and Iran’s smaller proxies will exploit the popular support they gained among Iraq’s Shi’a – by supporting Prime Minister Haider al Abadi’s campaign against Iraqi Kurdistan – to increase their own political power in provincial governments and in Baghdad. These groups will likely outcompete candidates favorable to U.S. interests – those working toward a sovereign, representative, and unitary Iraq that Iran’s proxies do not dominate.