Journalists in the west refer to the man of the hour as a ‘moderate’, ‘secular’ and ‘patriotic’ leader. When woven together, these words thinly veil Abadi’s political promiscuity.
It seems that the growth of sectarian incidents, home demolitions, corruption and the rise of paramilitaries and militias fall outside the scope of their analysis.
In the space of less than a week Abadi visited Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey, three rival powers in the region that want to put their sticky fingers in the Iraqi pie.
A little history for those that do not know.
Hizb al Dawa – The Calling, in Arabic – the political party Abadi presides over, was officially born in late 1957 as a clandestine organization headed by revered Iraqi Shia cleric Mohammad Baqir al Sadr. The group was outlawed following an attempted assassination of then Iraqi foreign-minister Tareq Aziz. A sympathetic Iran sprung into action, adopting group members who it resettled on its soil.
In subsequent years, they would plot against their common enemy: the Baath government. Before 2003 Iraq’s Dawa party, alongside the Lebanese branch, bloodied their hands with zeal, carrying out under the wishes of Ayatollah Khomeini Iranian sponsored attacks in Lebanon, Kuwait and Iraq.
These details are entirely expunged from arguments spun to promote Abadi as an ‘impartial’ man opposed to taking sides. Instead we are told that his mandate, defeat of the Islamic State (IS), is a closed chapter. However, neither IS nor the conditions for its expansion have been entirely eradicated.
Even during October Abadi’s visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the image of a non-partisan man remained suspiciously intact. The same applies during his Iran visit following his pitstop to Saudi.
Abadi’s impartial posturing has been undermined however, by members of his own government. During his visit to Qatari capital Doha, foreign minister Ibrahim Jaafari’s affirmed Iraq’s commitment to Qatar and opposition to the isolation and besiegement of any country. In closed meetings Jaafari also expressed moves intended to end the embargo.
These contradictory stances make Iraq’s political field difficult to navigate and easy to manipulate.
In spite of his external fan base, Abadi back home faces the unforgiving sarcasm Iraqis are not shy to display. Analysts walk away with the picture presented to them by the press sources they follow and ally themselves to. These are rarely Arabic sources that accommodate the public voice of ordinary civilians from the various backgrounds and faiths Iraq is home to.
Insistence on Abadi’s effective leadership style is simply papering over cracks.
Of the current politicians Abadi is America’s last hope, as they see him as malleable and the least worst option. Convincing the masses, has seen America run a spin campaign paying off analysts to promote PM Abadi, with one article going so far as to label him a ‘national hero’.
How much impact this will have on the 2018 elections is questionable.
Ultimately until the US admits that the political system it installed has failed, the status quo with foreign powers vying for control over ‘the heart of the Middle East’ will continue, with or without Abadi.