The Takeaway: Sunni ‘awakening’ is a giant story from Iraq’s elections

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Hot Take: Iraq’s Sunnis stake their declare

Iraq’s election shock. Iraqis went to the polls on Oct. 10 to elect the 329 members of the Council of Representatives (parliament). One of the large headlines from the election has been the positive aspects for the Iraqi Sunni group, which make up about 22%, or approximately 9 million, of Iraq’s estimated 40 million inhabitants. Thirteen years after the United States deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, an Arab Sunni, Iraq’s Sunnis are lastly positioned to take their declare to Iraq’s political future.

The first awakening. Following Saddam’s overthrow in 2003, Iraq’s Sunnis principally abstained from politics and suffered at occasions underneath the sectarian post-Saddam governments, in addition to assaults by rogue Shiite sectarian militias. A way of disenfranchisement amongst Sunnis was compounded by a “de-Baathification” motion which uprooted {many professional} and educated Sunnis from their jobs, in addition to from management positions within the army, which was disbanded by US decree. By 2007, Iraq was reeling from sectarian violence and Al-Qaeda terrorism. To quell the violence, US President George W. Bush added 20,000 forces to the over 130,000 US troops already in Iraq. Key to the technique for stemming the violence have been the Iraqi Arab Sunni forces who fought alongside the US, a development known as the Sunni “awakening” or the “Sons of Iraq.”

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A second awakening. The elections this week confirmed that the Sunnis are rising as a extra cohesive political drive. Mohammad Halbousi, the Sunni speaker of parliament and chief of the Taqadom (Progress) Party, has acquired, in line with the newest tally, 37 seats, second solely to the Sadrists, led by populist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, which thus far has 72 seats (these numbers may change). Taqadom acquired solely six seats within the 2018 elections. If Halbousi can unite along with his Sunni political rival, Khamis al-Kanjar, chief of the Azem (Arab Project) Party, which acquired 12 seats, then Iraq’s Sunnis may management as many as 50 of the 329 seats. 

Here is the newest tally (topic to vary):

  • 72 -Sadrist Coalition
  • 37 -Taqadom 
  • 35 -State of Law (Party of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki)
  • 33 -Kurdistan Democratic Party of Masoud Barzani
  • 21 -Fatah – ‘Conquest Alliance’ linked to Popular Mobilization Units with hyperlinks to Iran
  • 16 Patriotic Union of Kurdistan 
  • 12 Azem – Khanjar
  • 37 Independents – Mix
  • 66 Other smaller events
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What it means. The Iraq High Electoral Commission will certify the ultimate outcomes inside two weeks. Then the politicking begins. Top posts are assigned inside communities. The key posts are president (reserved for a Kurd, at present held by Barham Salih), prime minister (reserved for a Shiite, at present held by Mustafa al-Kadhimi), and speaker of the parliament (reserved for an Arab Sunni, held by Halbousi). Halbousi’s sturdy efficiency has him well-placed to return as speaker.

Read extra: Shelly Kittleson offers unmatched reporting from Iraq on the social, political, and safety traits in Iraq’s Sunni communities, together with this piece on the Halbousi-Kanjar marketing campaign. Also take a look at the newest from Iraq by Mustafa Sadoun and Ali Mamouri, and our podcast this week with Ken Pollack of the American Enterprise Institute.  

From our regional correspondents:

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1. Press freedom underneath risk in Tunisia 

Tunisia’s journalist union is warning that press freedoms are eroding within the turbulent North African nation amid a heightened marketing campaign of arrests and prosecutions. Earlier this month, the Tunisian judiciary sentenced 4 individuals to jail, together with a feminine journalist, on spying costs. Mohamed Ali Ltifi explains that many of the focused journalists and activists are against Tunisian President Kais Saied, who in July sacked the Cabinet and suspended parliament in a move his critics known as a coup. But because the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists has documented, press freedom was on the decline properly earlier than Saied’s announcement. In what the journalists’ union stated was a three-year excessive, greater than 200 Tunisian journalists have been attacked from May 2020 to April 2021. 

2. Sisi backs Saied’s seizure of energy 

In a telephone name final week, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi advised Saied that Saied’s current actions, together with suspending Parliament, “will bring about stability.” Enhada, Tunisia’s largest political celebration, is taken into account an ideological offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Egypt. Our correspondent in Egypt notes that Egypt was the primary nation impressed by Tunisia’s Arab Spring rebellion in 2011, and “now Tunisia seems to be learning a lesson from Egypt in combating political Islam.”

3. Palestinian online game sparks controversy  

A preferred new online game that lets customers play as a Palestinian fighter from the Gaza Strip has angered some Israelis who say the sport encourages the killing of Jews. Following a request from Israel’s justice minister, YouTube made the sport unavailable in Israel. The makers of “Fursan al-Aqsa: The Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” level out that the on-screen fighter solely assaults Israeli army positions, not civilians. Mai Abu Hasaneen spoke with the sport’s creator, Nidal Nijm, a 37-year-old Brazilian of Palestinian origin. Nijm stated he hopes the sport can fight a typical online game cliche that usually portrays Arabs and Muslims as terrorists.

4. Will Syria’s opposition forces merge in Idlib?

Speculation is heating up in Syrian opposition media retailers that the Turkey-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) will merge with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the US-designated terrorist group that controls Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib. Last month, the commander of the SNA-affiliated Sultan Suleiman Shah Division stated he was able to reach an understanding with the highly effective jihadist group. An HTS chief, in the meantime, advised Sultan al-Kanj that his group “is getting closer to the SNA factions, and there is high-level coordination between the two parties in all military and security fields.” Despite the obvious thaw, an SNA chief in Idlib cautioned that any potential merger will take time. 

5. Syrian opposition chief visits DC, warns towards US withdrawal

Salem al-Meslet, president of the Syrian National Coalition opposition group, was in Washington final week. During an interview with Elizabeth Hagedorn, Meslet stated that current Biden administration sanctions on hardline SNA faction Ahrar al-Shariqa have “created a model for other groups to stay in line” and stated his coalition helps any effort to analyze potential human rights violations. He additionally warned {that a} pullout of US troops from Syria would allow the Syrian authorities and its backers, saying a “withdrawal from Syria today or in the near future would mean we’re back to square one.”

One Cool Thing: Egypt’s award-winning synagogue restoration

Egypt is being praised for its current restoration of the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue within the Egyptian metropolis of Alexandria. Engineering News-Record, a US-based development journal, lately gave the North African nation its high renovation award to commend a three-year-long restoration of Egypt’s oldest synagogue. The two-story Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, which reopened to the general public in January 2020, is seen as a degree of pleasure amongst a tiny Egyptian Jewish group nearing extinction. George Mikhail experiences on how Egypt is utilizing the newly renovated synagogue and different Jewish websites to advertise tourism. 

What We’re Reading: Tunisia’s shaky financial future

Tunisia’s financial outlook “remains highly uncertain,” the World Bank says. The financial institution attributes the sluggish financial system and mounting public debt to each the coronavirus pandemic’s escalation in mid-2021 and up to date political occasions. The risky scenario has drawn comparisons to Lebanon, the place political gridlock contributed to the nation’s financial collapse. Read the World Bank’s newest outlook for Tunisia right here. 

What We’re Listening To: How Israel grew to become a cyber chief

Ben Caspit interviews Eviatar Matania, a professor at Tel Aviv University who helped develop Israel’s cyber capabilities. “Israel is a real player, not just per capita, but in absolute numbers,” Matania says. Some figures to drive home his level: Israel attracts over 30 p.c of world cyber investments, and an estimated one-third of all unicorn startups belong to Israelis. For extra on what makes Israel a cyber chief, hearken to Caspit’s podcast right here. 

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