Iraq has returned to the forefront of global events during the past few days, following rapid developments that followed the announcement of the preliminary results of the early parliamentary elections that were held on the tenth of last October, and raised fears that it was a prelude to large-scale violence.

Unlike the previous crises that Iraq witnessed after the US invasion of the country in 2003, the current crisis is limited to Shiite forces and factions, which raises fears of a possible outbreak of fighting between them.

Signs of the crisis began during the announcement of the preliminary results of the elections, which bore surprises, most notably the significant decline of the "Al-Fateh" coalition, which is a political umbrella for Shiite factions close to Iran, which greatly reduced its power in Parliament.

The "Sadr bloc", affiliated with Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, topped the results with 73 seats out of 329, while the "Progress" bloc, led by dissolved Parliament Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi, won 38 seats, and in third place came the "State of Law" bloc led by the former prime minister. Nuri al-Maliki with 34 seats, while the "Al-Fateh" coalition led by Hadi al-Amiri is the main loser, with only 16 seats, after he came second with 48 seats in the 2018 elections.

The so-called coordinating framework of Shiite forces says that the election results are "fabricated" and "manipulated", and they issued veiled threats that moving forward with these announced results would "endanger civil peace." Hundreds of their supporters continued their sit-in for the third week in front of one of the gates of the Green Zone. In the center of Baghdad, but last Friday it developed into confrontations with the security forces when protesters tried to storm the area, which includes government headquarters, including the High Elections Commission and foreign embassies, especially the United States embassy.

A protester was killed after being shot, according to a security source, and 125 others were wounded, "most of them from the security forces" - according to the Ministry of Health - as a result of those clashes, while a source in the Hezbollah Brigades (one of the Popular Mobilization factions) said that at least two demonstrators were killed, This angered the Shiite factions that blamed Mustafa Al-Kazemi's government.

The day after that, Al-Kazemi survived at dawn last Sunday from a failed assassination attempt with 3 booby-trapped drones, loaded with explosives.

Several of his bodyguards were injured, and this was followed by an intense security deployment in the vicinity of the Green Zone, amid widespread local and international condemnation of the assassination attempt.

Many Iraqis fear that the tension between the main Shiite factions, which dominate the government and most state institutions and also boast of their armed arms, will turn into a wide civil conflict if more such incidents occur.

Supporters of the forces rejecting the election results continue their sit-in near the gates of the Green Zone in central Baghdad (Anatolia)

Street boiling

Political analyst Saad Al-Zubaidi told Anadolu Agency that "the recent developments, whether direct confrontations between the security forces and demonstrators (supporters of the forces and factions that lost in the elections) or the attempt to assassinate Al-Kazemi, reflect the ferment that exists in the street."

He did not rule out the involvement of (unnamed) regional countries in the assassination attempt, with the aim of "provoking Shiite-Shiite fighting and confusing the situation in Iraq before announcing the final results and starting the stage of forming the government."

And he believed that "the current data indicate the existence of a large rift within the Shiite house at all levels, whether political or security."

And he continued, "The escalation by the government will reflect a negative message about the situation and insecurity in Iraq, and therefore the Al-Kazemi government will try not to be drawn into the escalation."

The attempt to assassinate Al-Kazemi at dawn last Sunday sparked shock in Iraq and widespread regional and international condemnation, and increased fears of the country being drawn back into chaos and violence.

Al-Kazemi said that he knows who was behind the attack, and vowed to reveal those involved.

One of the Iraqi security officials told Reuters that the drones used in the attack were of four propellers, and that each of them carried a projectile containing high explosives capable of destroying buildings and armored vehicles.

The official added that these drones are Iranian-made drones and the explosives were used this year in attacks on US forces in Iraq, which Washington blamed for Iranian-backed factions, including Kata'ib Hezbollah.

The United States usually accuses Iraqi Shiite factions linked to Iran of being behind these attacks.

And between Washington and Tehran there are many controversial files, most notably their foreign policy in the Middle East and the Iranian nuclear file.

The United States last month targeted Iran's drone program with new sanctions, saying Iran's Revolutionary Guards had deployed drones against US forces, Washington's regional allies and international navigation.

Analysts: The attack is a message from the factions that they are ready to resort to violence if they are excluded from forming the government (Reuters)

attack message

Iraqi officials and analysts said the attack was a message from the factions that they are ready to resort to violence if they are excluded from forming a government or if their dominance over large parts of the state apparatus is challenged.

Hamdi Malik, a specialist on Iraqi Shiite militias at The Washington Institute, told Reuters that the attack was a clear message that "we can create chaos in Iraq, we have the weapons, we have the means."

Sources in an armed group said that the commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Ismail Qaani, traveled to Iraq - yesterday, Sunday - after the attack to meet with the leaders of the armed factions and urged them to avoid any further escalation of violence.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Malik explained that the attack indicates that the Iranian-backed factions are positioning themselves against al-Sadr, who is also followed by an armed faction, a scenario that would harm Iran's influence, and therefore Tehran is likely to oppose it.

"I do not think that Iran wants a civil war between the Shiites. This will weaken its position in Iraq and allow other factions to become stronger," he said.

Many groups aligned with Iran are watching Sadr's rise with concern, fearing that he will conclude an agreement with Al-Kazemi and his moderate Shiite allies, and even with Sunnis and Kurds, which would remove them from power.

Iran-backed groups view Al-Kazemi as Sadr's man, and consider him a friend of the United States, Tehran's archenemy.

The Commission completed last Sunday the recount and manual counting of the contested votes (Anatolia)

crisis containment

According to political analyst Ali Fadlallah - in an interview with Anatolia - "there are external and internal (unnamed) parties seeking to bring Iraq into political and popular chaos, by targeting Al-Kazemi's house, and the demonstrators affiliated with the Popular Mobilization."

Fadlallah considered that "the current facts, after the tense security and political situation, are heading towards a return to calm and sitting at the dialogue table between the conflicting parties."

He added that "the conflicting Shiite forces reaching a political agreement regarding the next government will be enough to restore calm."

Those objecting to the results are demanding a manual recount of all votes, while the Electoral Commission says that the law only allows it to recount and count votes for which appeals are supported by evidence.

Indeed, the commission completed last Sunday the recount and manual counting of the contested votes.

According to previous data from the commission, the results of the manual counting of a part of the contested votes are identical to the results of the previously announced electronic ballot.

For the first time in Iraq, voters passed the ballot papers on electronic devices, before placing the cards in the boxes, and as soon as they were closed, the results were sent over the Internet to the commission’s headquarters in Baghdad.

If the rejectionists insist on their position, the situation may deteriorate further in the coming weeks and months.

Political analyst Sabah Al-Ugaili told Anadolu Agency that "Iraq is now experiencing an electoral crisis as a result of the rejection of the election results by many political blocs."

He believed that "the current conditions indicate the possibility of escalation and entering into a greater crisis during the coming period."

And he warned that "the political blocs' adherence to their rejection of the election results will lead Iraq towards internal strife that will have great consequences."