Shiite Trio Competes for Power in Iraq

Perhaps the most critical point for the PMU now is to preserve the momentum of the popularity it gained after defeating IS, which would guarantee Maliki a wide electoral base, secure him a majority and block his opponents’ calls for him to be held accountable for accusations of corruption and negligence in Mosul in 2014.

In light of this tense situation, Hakim drew up his own initiative, which he named the “Historical Settlement,” away from the other two Shiite leaderships.

The initiative is inspired by the classic discourse of the Islamic Supreme Council, led by Hakim himself, based on flexible political solutions that he believes could align some camps and secure him a place at the forefront of events. Some see Hakim’s initiative as merely an attempt not to lose his spot in a muscle-flexing parade.

Although his initiative is ambiguous at many levels, his strategy is based on lenient rhetoric and good relations abroad. Hakim’s positive relations with neighboring countries are an extension of his predecessors’ relations in the Islamic Council, since the days of the opposition to the former Iraqi regime. However, Hakim’s traditional alliance with Iran did not prevent him from visiting Gulf countries whose policies are hostile toward Iran.

Hakim and Maliki are unable to rally the Iraqi public’s support in political battles. Sadr is keen on stripping his two opponents of their strategic tools and adopting them. For example, it is true that Hakim’s initiative is aimed at reconciliation, but Sadr’s is more comprehensive and has been welcomed by some Sunni leaders, such as Osama al-Nujaifi and Khamis al-Khanjar.

The reconciliation between Sadr and the predominately Shiite PMU leaders, when they appeared in a joint press conference in October 2016, helped bring Sadr closer to Maliki. The rapprochement with the PMU also helped Sadr build bridges, albeit in a limited way, with the pro-Iranian side, which has expressed reservations about Sadr’s latest moves.

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