The job of an Iraqi Prime Minister is a complex balancing act on both the domestic and international fronts. To begin with, there is the challenge of managing competition between the country’s factitious elites. Then there is the unresolved tension between self-interested elites and a citizenry that has largely lost faith in its political leaders. Finally, there is the foreign policy dilemma of balancing political and economic dependence on both the US and Iran. By these standards, Prime Minister Mohammed Shiya al-Sudani’s first 100 days in office have provided a crash course on how to please all sides. He has allocated government positions to his supporters with gusto, provisionally left most Sadrist bastions of power in the state untouched (even though Sadrists are excluded from the government) and offered extensive ‘bread and games’ for the population by promising jobs and social security. Al-Sudani has furthermore sought to reassure opposing foreign actors through a hitherto fairly balanced foreign policy. His approach has been enabled by the broad coalition of Iraqi political elites that brought him to the premiership, along with record oil revenues that help grease the wheels of patronage politics. While structural reforms in politics, administration and economics are overdue, they will not happen because Iraq’s political leaders have no need for them in the immediate term. However, unresolved elite contention, a lack of public investment and the absence of reform mean that Iraq is likely heading for tougher times within the space of a couple of years.
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