Wednesday witnessed the political crisis’s apex. Muqtada called for “peaceful protests under the same intensity and even more in order to pressure the politicians and the lovers of corruption.” Moreover, “Nobody has the right to stop it otherwise the revolution will take another turn.” And then it happened. Not unlike George H. W. Bush reversing his “read my lips” pledge not to raise taxes, Iraq’s most demagogic nationalist appealed for foreign intervention. “We call upon the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the United Nations to interfere to get the Iraqi people out of their ordeal and to correct the political process even through holding early elections.”
Some analysts believe Muqtada is cynically hijacking Abadi’s reform agenda—publicly championing anticorruption, while privately blocking progress. It’s probably too soon to tell. Muqtada al-Sadr has never been one thing. During the American occupation, he was at once proxy, populist, patriot, politician—and, to AQI, pagan. Plotting his trajectory can feel like a fool’s errand. Muqtada may not appear himself, but he probably hasn’t truly shed his populist skin to don an establishment suit. He won’t betray his nationalist roots so lightly.
Zach Abels is assistant editor at the National Interest.