Trump’s Strikes Risk Upending Iraqi Politics

Killing Soleimani Undermines a Drive for Democratic Reform

Supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr march in Baghdad, Iraq, January 2020.  Alaa al-Marjan / Reuters

The January 3 killing in Baghdad of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis risked pushing Iran and the United States to war. Despite an escalation in hostilities that saw Iranian missiles hit U.S. bases in Iraq, the prospect of an all-out war between the two countries has mostly dimmed. Instead, Iraq is feeling the most significant consequences of the U.S. strike, which threaten to upend the country’s domestic politics.   

Before the U.S. drone strike on Soleimani, the Iraqi government faced a major internal threat: three months of unrelenting anti-government protests. The mostly young and often unemployed demonstrators rejected the political order that followed the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, decrying corruption and foreign interference in Iraqi affairs—particularly Iranian interference. But the killings presented many Iraqi Shiite leaders with an opportunity to whip up anti-Americanism instead, in order to both discredit

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