Since the invasion of 2003 that toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, no political party has been more central to Iraqi politics than the Islamic Dawa Party. Three out of Iraq’s five prime ministers during this tumultuous period have been members of the Dawa leadership. Several more senior Dawa members have served as ministers, governors, and security officials.

As Saddam Hussein’s regime fell, the party had little popular base inside the country. But, unlike other parties, the Dawa Party comprised members of the educated middle class. During their exile in Iran, Syria, and the United Kingdom, Dawa members networked with opponents of Saddam’s regime of all backgrounds. Its cadres were well connected with the incoming political class and therefore particularly well suited to navigate post-invasion politics.

Dawa members’ influence in defining the written and unwritten rules of power in post-invasion Iraq has been unparalleled. Under their lead, Iraq’s consociational system took shape, with resources and government positions being divided up by ethnicity and sect. This new system enabled political parties and personalities to seek power and best their rivals by trading the security, economic, and symbolic capital of state positions. Kurdish, Sunni, and Shia parties were thus consigned to an intra- and intercommunal struggle over resources to monopolize leadership within their respective communities.

Each of the terms of the three Dawa prime ministers marked an attempt to define Shia rule over the Iraqi state as distinct from the experience of Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. Yet, ultimately, all three Dawa prime ministers were unable to transcend the practices that made the party successful as an underground and exile organization, but were inimical to building a functioning state. Ibrahim al-Jaafari (prime minister in 2005) enabled the rise of an ethno-sectarian state that entrenched communal divisions. Nouri al-Maliki (prime minister 2006–14) promoted a centralized state sustained by a network that reported to him personally and only benefited his loyalists. And Haider al-Abadi (prime minister 2014–18) attempted to rebuild state institutions, but found only a few allies across the Iraqi political spectrum; his objective remains unaccomplished.

Several detailed accounts exist of the Dawa Party’s history, structure, and ideology. However, this report breaks new ground by investigating the role of the Dawa Party in Iraq’s post-invasion politics, through the lens of leading Dawa figures’ biographies, which have, until now, not been available in English. The specific ways that each of these Dawa men’s terms played out are also a result of their personalities and the network of relations they built and maintained over time.

The three men also represent three distinct generations of Dawa activists—generations with different defining experiences, connections to other Shia political forces, and relationships with the Iraqi national identity. Jaafari, from a working-class trading family, governed as a conflict-averse negotiator, entrenching ethno-sectarianism. Maliki, shaped by deep attachments to his tribe and region—and by years in exile—attempted to rule Iraq almost entirely through his personal networks. Finally, Abadi had a vision for professionalizing the Iraqi state—but lacked the personal ambition and networks to do so.1

The Trader: Ibrahim al-Jaafari

Born in 1947, Ibrahim Abdul Karim Hamza al-Eshaiker was among the early militants of the Dawa Party. Later, during the years of his militancy, he took the nickname of Abu Ahmed al-Jaafari, and is today known in Iraqi politics as Ibrahim al-Jaafari. In 2005, Jaafari became the prime minister of the first elected post-invasion Iraqi government. During his premiership, the Dawa Party acquired power by balancing rival forces, brokering intra-Shia consensus, and shaping the ethno-sectarian system that still governs Iraq.

The young Ibrahim grew up in remote rural areas neglected by the state in the countryside outside of Karbala. In the 1950s, fast-paced urbanization and population growth had deepened the gap between the main urban centers and the provinces. People of the rural Shia districts of Basra, Karbala, Diawniya, Hilla and Kut—where nearly 50 percent of the total rural population lived—increasingly aspired to move into urban hubs and receive an education. Baghdad and Basra doubled in size. Mosul’s population increased by a third.2

Jaafari was one of fourteen siblings (eleven brothers and two sisters). His father died when he was four, and he spent most of his youth in the streets of Karbala, working at the central market while attending school. The souk taught him the spirit of adaptation and negotiation skills. “The souk was my veritable school of politics,” he told an interviewer.3

Jaafari’s introduction to Shia political Islam came through the library of his hometown and in nearby mosques. He officially joined the Dawa Party in the late 1960s (about a decade after the party was founded, sometime around 1957).4 Enrolled at the medical school of Mosul University, he was responsible for the Dawa Party’s branch on campus. Islamism attracted members of the pious bourgeoisie of southern Iraq, who aspired to the education of the urban middle class. Most such students were enrolled in the medical and engineering schools and, like Jaafari, could afford attending universities but felt discriminated against due to their provincial origins. In the political Islam of the Dawa Party, they found a path to claiming their identity in opposition to the urban, largely Sunni middle-class elites, and an alternative to the secularism of the Iraqi Communist Party.5

Jaafari was among the early followers of the Dawa Party, but was too young to be part of the party’s core leadership.6 He never met Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, the prominent cleric who was the Dawa Party’s ideological leader. The period 1964–68 has been called the Dawa Party’s “golden age”, and the party enjoyed a certain margin to act inside Iraq, as the Ba’athist government was preoccupied with a crackdown on the communists.7 During this time, the Dawa Party increased its followers in the universities and among the intelligentsia.8 It opened religious centers and libraries across Iraq and tasked a group of emissaries (wakala) to run them. It organized students’ processions (mawkib al-talaba) to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein.9 Students would become sympathizers to the Dawa Party through word of mouth, and could only become members following background checks on their families and networks of friendships. Libraries, local mosques across the south, and universities in Basra, Mosul, and Baghdad were hubs to attract younger recruits.

Iran’s revolution challenged the Dawa Party’s Islamist credentials and called its strategy into question.

But the Islamic Revolution in 1979 in Iran marked a dramatic turn in the party’s trajectory—and in Jaafari’s life. Events in neighboring Iran reinvigorated the spirit of the Shia Islamist militants of the Dawa Party, who became convinced that a well-organized revolution could succeed in overthrowing the Iraqi regime. The euphoria around the Islamic Revolution pressured Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr to openly support it—even though he may not have been convinced that the conditions in Iraq were right to support an Iran-style success. But with Sadr openly supporting the revolution in Iran, the Saddam Hussein-led Ba’ath Party grew fearful of a spillover into Shia Iraq.

Saddam redoubled efforts to repress Dawa militants.10 The Dawa Party’s core leadership was put under arrest, executed, or forced into exile. Religious centers were closed down, ceremonies commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein banned, and students of the hawza—the Shia seminary—closely monitored by security forces.11 In April 1980, the Dawa was banned, and party membership became punishable by death. Saddam arrested and executed Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and his sister, Amina Sadr bint al-Huda.

Dawa activities within Iraq now had to be conducted in absolute secrecy.12 “Keeping a beard was enough to get arrested,” Nouri al-Maliki later recalled in a television interview.13 Jaafari fled with his wife and two sons, first to Syria, and then to Iran.

Exile in Iran

The 1980s was the decade of the party’s dispersal (intishar). With its founders assassinated, its rank-and-file exiled, and its cells scattered and disconnected from one another, the Dawa Party was “a body without head,” as Maliki later said.14 Some members escaped Iraq and took refuge in Iran’s southern province, Ahwaz, where the Islamic Republic hosted and organized affiliated armed groups.15 Others temporarily relocated to Damascus, where they nurtured ties with other members of the Iraqi opposition. London was a hub to nurture relations with the West.

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Jaafari survived purges and escaped imprisonment. He spent the 1980s in Ahwaz and in Tehran, working as a medical doctor.16

Jaafari’s reasons for relocating to Iran were more practical than ideological. Syria had only been a temporary base, a transition point. In Syria, families of Iraqi exiles had no legal permit of residency nor access to education and medical care.17 Iran provided exiles with housing, medical assistance, and education for children.18 Clerics and militants with a link to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s new supreme leader, could offer social services to Iraqi refugees and prisoners of war, and recruit them to fight Iraq’s regime from Iran. (The Iran–Iraq War ran from 1980 to 1988 and killed half a million people.) These exiles would join operations conducted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and enjoyed its backing and training.19

The Islamic Revolution challenged the Dawa Party’s Islamist credentials and called its strategy into question. Sadr had theorized the path to the establishment of an Islamic state as a process of many gradual phases (marahil). This included participation in politics through elections, decision-making that involved consultation between clerics and party cadres, and the rejection of violence. The Islamic Revolution challenged this gradual approach. It elevated clerics—al-fuqaha’ (sing. faqih), or “the jurists”—as the ultimate decision-makers. Non-clerical laymen had only a minor role.20

Questions haunted many of those who spent the years of exile in Iran as the Iran–Iraq War raged on: “If a revolution is happening in Iran,” Jaafari said, “why not in Iraq, where Baqir al-Sadr theorized Shia Islamism, had lived, and made disciples?”21

Trying to Remain Iraqi

In exile, the Dawa Party strived for its ideological and organizational independence from the Islamic Republic. “Iraq’s Shia like to grow things from their own soil,” a Dawa militant said at the time.22 But the leading Dawa clerics had been co-opted by the Iranians, its fighters mobilized into competing Shia militant bodies. The Dawa newspaper, Al-Risala, was banned in Iran.23 Tensions grew deeper between those clerics and laymen who had grown close to the Iran-based opposition, and others based in Damascus and London. Those cadres in Iraq advocated for the Dawa Party’s organizational, theological, and political independence from Iran, and advocated a return to Sadr’s philosophy. “We knew political Islam before the Iranians,” said Sadiq al-Rikabi, a former Syria-based cadre, and a Dawa leader.24

Jaafari stood in the middle of the ideological, geographical, and social divides of Iraq’s Shia oppositions. From his modest two-room flat in Ahwaz, he engaged with other Iran-based exiles to piece together the tatters of Iraq’s Shia Islamist opposition. He established, with eleven others, the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI)—rebranded in 2007 as the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)—an umbrella group of Iraqi Islamist oppositionists under the patronage of Khomeini.25

Jaafari was on good terms with all sides of the Iran-based opposition cadres and armed militants. He enjoyed the support of Iran, credibility within his own party as a veteran, and credibility among exiles as a long-standing member of the opposition. Proximity to Sadr’s disciples won him credentials as a repository of Sadr’s thinking and a point of reference for the party’s leadership. He shuttled messages between Iraqi opposition meetings in London and Tehran.26 He also had solid connections with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the lead cleric of SCIRI, and its armed branches. Jaafari later recounted friendly conversations with Kurdish opposition leaders Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, who supported his successful candidacy for vice president of the Iraqi Interim Government led by Ayad Allawi in 2005.27 He also met with future members of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iranian ambassador to Iraq.

Even though Jaafari enjoyed a broad network among exiles, the Dawa Party lacked an armed following and a popular base inside Iraq. It did not have an organized armed wing such as SCIRI’s Badr Corps. It was rather unknown inside Iraq. In the 2005 provincial and legislative elections—the first since the invasion—the Dawa Party won only 42 out of 275 seats at the national level, third among Shia parties. None of its members were appointed governors. When attempting to gather people in Nasiriyah to protest against the occupation forces, only a thousand people showed up.28

Nonetheless, after the 2003 invasion, Jaafari leveraged the Dawa Party’s strong connections in the ruling class as much as he could. He balanced power between the domestic Shia opposition, led by Moqtada al-Sadr (the son of Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, first cousin of Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr), and SCIRI. Moqtada al-Sadr enjoyed a large popular base in Shia-populated areas, and SCIRI had an organized armed branch to hold on territory. That, alongside support from Iran and his extensive connections with Iran-based exiles, paved his way to become the first prime minister of Iraq in 2005.

Cutting Deals

As a skilled mediator, Jaafari brokered the bargain between Kurdish and Shia groups to allocate state positions according to communal identities. Kurdish parties wanted regional autonomy. They got their wish, and Shia parties, in return, got Kurdish support for having a Shia politician in the premiership in Baghdad. Both wanted the Sunnis and old regime cronies out of power. Jaafari was the intermediary of this and many other transactional exchanges.

In Baghdad, the newly elected Jaafari balanced the interests of rival Shia parties by trading state positions and resources among them. Through him, Iraqi members of the Iran-based opposition replenished the ranks of the new Iraqi state. Badr commanders put on police uniforms in middle-ranking positions of the Ministry of Interior. Fighters affiliated with Moqtada al-Sadr transformed into regular soldiers on the Ministry of Defense payroll. Dawa members who were close to Iran took on senior security roles.29

In the governorates, Jaafari emerged as a kingmaker between Shia rival factions, such as—in Basra—Fadhila, Dawa splinters, and SCIRI. While allying in governorate councils with SCIRI (which already controlled most of the governorate councils in the mid-Euphrates and southern governorates), Jaafari also allowed the Sadrist militias to grow more powerful by appointing Sadr-affiliated army commanders. During Jaafari’s premiership, the government acquiesced to the Sadrist militia, the Mahdi Army, controlling neighborhoods of key urban centers, including in Baghdad.

Jaafari’s term left a heavy legacy on Iraqi and Shia politics. The Shia–Kurdish formula of ethno-sectarian representation ended up excluding the Sunnis, fueling an insurgency and undermining the already meager prospects of salvaging functioning state institutions from the ruins of the former regime. Power-sharing in Iraq was reduced to dividing the share of state positions and resources among political forces, which fueled intra- and intercommunal sectarian competition. Sectarian tensions peaked in February 2006, as al-Qaeda militants bombed the Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, leading the Shia forces to seek another candidate for the position of prime minister, who could put an end to violence.30

Strongman with a Weak State: Nouri al-Maliki

With Nouri Kamal al-Maliki’s eight-year-long premiership (2006–14), the Dawa Party attempted to leave behind its legacy as an opposition party, and govern the new Iraqi state. While less ideological and sectarian than his critics believed him to be, Maliki was unable to overcome the legacy of his past—as a man from the southern governorates, and as an oppositionist. Obsessed by control and driven by mistrust, he only managed to sustain the build-up of a patronage network that reported to him personally, which ultimately weakened institutions, helped the rise of the Islamic State, and finally fractured the Dawa party itself.

Born in 1950 in a remote village of the mid-Euphrates, Maliki is a man of his region. He was deeply rooted in his village—Janaga—his family, and his tribe. As a young man, Maliki never traveled abroad. By the age of thirty, he had visited Baghdad and Najaf only for day trips.31 By 2003, he had been in the West only once, for a human rights meeting in Brussels, and “stayed in the hotel and saw nothing of the city,” as a former Iraqi lawmaker later said.32

In his twenties, he became exposed to Islamist thinking by attending a mosque in Hindiya, a town near his village. Soon, he became an undercover militant, preaching Shia Islam to members of his family and distributing pamphlets during religious holidays. He was well connected to a diverse array of locals through his job as a bureaucrat at the education department of Hilla, the city nearest his village, and counted among his colleagues Ba’ath members and members of the Iraqi Communist Party. In the early 1970s, Maliki had to remain vigilant. “I knew when to keep a low-key [profile]. Others, who didn’t, were arrested or executed,” he recalled in interviews he gave to Al Iraqiya television.33

But in 1979, Maliki’s membership in the Dawa Party was about to be discovered, and he was forced to flee. He escaped to Jordan, crossing Sunni-dominated Anbar governorate for the first time along the way. From Jordan, he went on to Damascus, where he would spend the next twenty-three years organizing and networking in the Iraqi diaspora.34

In 1991, the Ba’ath Party began explicitly referring to protesters by their communal identity: “There will be no Shia after today,” went one Ba’athist slogan.

Maliki’s early years of exile were unrewarding. In 1980, he relocated to Sayyida Zainab, a poor Shia suburb of Damascus, where the Dawa Party’s militants and clerics began organizing. Maliki was far from his family and arrived with just $200 to his name. In Syria, President Hafez al-Assad left him and his Dawa comrades only a small margin for their political activities. Maliki has told an interviewer that, on the day that Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr was executed in April 1980, Dawa activists in Syria could barely organize a protest in front of Iraq’s embassy in Damascus, because of the stifling political atmosphere.35

Two years later, as the Iran–Iraq War raged, Maliki relocated to Ahwaz, Iran, near the Shahid al-Sadr camp, the only Dawa-affiliated military training center. Daily life was tough. Rockets fell in areas neighboring his modest house. His wife cooked for fighters crossing in and out of Iraq.36 The neighborhood he lived in was nearly deserted. He attempted to support the establishment of an armed wing for the Dawa Party, but the initiative was short-lived. Eventually, the Dawa Party’s senior cadres, Jaafari included, handed over the camp to the more Khomeini-friendly Badr Corps. Frustrated, Maliki went on to Tehran and spent the next decade shuttling between Iran and Syria doing the party leadership’s bidding.

The Uprising of 1991

In 1991, months after Saddam was defeated in the Gulf War, Iraq’s southern governorates— alongside many others—revolted against Saddam. The moment marked a turning point for Maliki and his peers. The Ba’ath Party began explicitly referring to protesters by their communal identity: “There will be no Shia after today,” went one Ba’athist slogan. This actually boosted the Shia identity of the anti-regime protests.37 Resentment grew among members of the Dawa Party against other Iraqi Shia opposition groups based in Iran, which attempted to claim ownership of the uprising and provoked a backlash from the regime.38 Saddam doubled down on his repression.

Meanwhile, Saddam’s ill-conceived invasion of Kuwait had changed the attitude of the United States and international community toward Baghdad. The exiled Iraqi opposition began looking more to the West, rather than Iran, for infrastructure and support. Iraq’s Shia political Islam began to have an identity of its own, distinct from that of Iran’s Islamic Republic. The “Declaration of the Shia of Iraq,” penned in 1992 by Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, a member of the Dawa Party, alongside other secular Shia dignitaries, was a milestone in elaborating the political vision for Iraq in the post-Saddam era—a vision that moved past Shia transnational ideology. The declaration envisioned an Iraq ruled by the principles of democracy, federalism, and respect for community rights.39 The opposition began to feel that the end of Saddam’s regime was in sight, and what to do next became a “recurrent question.”40

The turn away from Iran, however, did not mean that every exiled opposition member grew enamored with the West. Maliki was disappointed with the West’s lack of support for the popular revolts of 1991.41 In interviews, he criticized the American administration of George H.W. Bush as an enabler of the crackdown on protests, as being responsible for the suffering of average Iraqis under sanctions, and for plotting to control the Iraqi opposition through Western-friendly personalities, such as Ahmed Chalabi.42

As the opposition’s center of gravity shifted away from Tehran, new safe havens emerged for Iraqi exiles. Syrian president Hafez al-Assad opened space for the opposition, and Maliki kept in contact with Syria’s security services.43 Dawa members in Damascus stopped looking to Iran’s revolution for inspiration and, by the early 1990s, the party seemed increasingly focused on a political agenda rather than one centered around Islamist ideology. It abolished the “jurist’s council” (majlis al-faqih) that it had relied on for guidance, and expelled clerics and laymen with close ties with Tehran. It refined its internal organization to coordinate between scattered cells of exiles and what remained of the domestic opposition. The party developed an internal electoral system in charge of electing a leadership. A conference (mu’tamar al-da’awa) was set up to periodically gather members of local committees, electing an assembly (sh’ura) and leadership (qiada al-amma).44

Inside Iraq, party cells continued to operate, but in absolute secrecy. Only one delegate of each local cell (consisting of a maximum of four members) handled external communication with other cells.45 Through a Joint Coordination Committee, the party connected with non-Shia members of the opposition, and advocated against Saddam throughout Europe and in Gulf countries.46

At the time, Maliki was responsible for media relations.47 “We worked on building a leadership for the opposition,” Maliki told an interviewer.48

Guided by Distrust

Despite these efforts, the Iraqi opposition was far from united. Maliki and comrades remained distrustful of other regime opponents—Kurdish parties, Chalabi, and Ayad Allawi—who held frequent consultations with U.S. officials.

Maliki’s distrust was nothing new; for much of his life he had only warily engaged with U.S.-backed and non-Shia opposition groups. Throughout Maliki’s career, his mistrust periodically pushed him back into an unenthusiastic alliance with other Shia groups, and thus under Iran’s wing. A similar distrust dominated the relationship between the exiled and the domestic opposition. Each one claimed to be the authentic opponent of Saddam.

One node of domestic opposition was building around the charismatic cleric Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (first cousin to Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr) and his Friday prayers inside Iraq. Maliki dismissed the scale of the cleric’s growing popularity—“nobody knew Sadiq al-Sadr among exiles outside Iraq,” he told an interviewer.49 Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr was assassinated in 1999 (likely by the regime), but his followers maintained a covert network across the south. And after 2003, masses mobilized around Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr’s son, Moqtada al-Sadr.

After the 2003 invasion, Maliki lacked grassroots support, and focused on building a network of contacts inside the palaces of Baghdad. In 2005, he was elected to parliament, and was also a member of the committee that drafted Iraq’s new constitution. His networking paid off: when Jaafari was voted out, the Dawa Party supported Maliki for prime minister; they hoped he could ensure the party’s continued relevance among the Shia and in Iraqi politics more broadly.50 Other Shia forces supported him because they perceived him as nonthreatening.51 American officials trusted his credentials as a nationalist, since he spent his exile in Syria rather than Iran.

Iraqis walk on the street in Baghdad, on election day, January 31, 2009, as a campaign poster of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is seen in a car rearview mirror. Source: Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Iraqis walk on the street in Baghdad, on election day, January 31, 2009, as a campaign poster of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is seen in a car rearview mirror. Source: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Winning against Shia Rivals

As soon as he took office, Maliki ended Jaafari’s opposition-centric politics. He struck allegiances with former enemies—the Ba’athists—to prevail against his former comrades—other Shia Islamists groups. Borrowing a page out of Saddam Hussein’s book, he won Ba’ath cadres’ allegiance through a combination of threats and rewards. His trusted contacts in Hilla, Karbala, Nasiriyah, and Basra ran background checks and built files (malaffat) on former Ba’athists: their families, hometown, tribes and past careers. He uncovered their pasts to threaten them with disqualification. He won their allegiance by rewarding them and their families with positions, turning them into his trusted emissaries across state institutions, including the army, the police, special forces, provincial councils, and the judiciary.

Overall, Maliki used de-Ba’athification as an instrument to build power and not as an instrument to take revenge against past oppression.52 For Maliki, former Ba’athists were simply members of society who had fallen in line with the dominant power at the time. As such, most of them could switch sides and pledge allegiance to the new ruler—the Dawa Party. All that the Dawa Party needed to do to gain this allegiance was guarantee that such individuals would be reinstated in their ranks and social status.53

Thanks to this strategy, Maliki could, by 2007, rely on a network of former army generals with a past in the Ba’ath to prevail against his Shia competition—including from within his own party. The Iraqi army defeated the Mahdi Army in the Battle of Basra in 2008, undermining the Sadrists’ credibility as a national resistance against the U.S. occupation. Maliki then dethroned SCIRI, sacking its affiliated governors and police chiefs over incompetence and corruption cases.

Meanwhile, Maliki replaced the old guard within the Dawa Party with younger, more secular cadres. This younger generation hailed from families of Dawa exiles in Europe and the United States. They were educated abroad, spoke foreign languages, and had worked as traders, investors and doctors before returning to Iraq. Tired of their junior position within Dawa and being criticized for their lack of Islamist credentials, these younger cadres found in Maliki a vehicle to senior roles in the state hierarchies.

By 2009, Maliki had become the symbol of the party, and the center of its new networks.54 The 2009 provincial elections granted Maliki’s loyalists positions across Iraq’s governorates and across the state institutions. Loyal officers rose to top positions within the army, the police, and other security services. Loyal Dawa cadres became governors of governorates with large decision-making powers in security, recruitment of civil servants, and private investments. In the same year, Maliki’s networking earned him an appointment as secretary general of the Dawa Party.55

With oil prices peaking as high as $140 per barrel, Maliki went on a government hiring spree, and employed members of the southern tribes in the police.56 Maliki understood how to rebuild the bureaucracy—which was in shambles after Saddam’s fall—to reward his allies.57 He issued laws codifying public sector grades and systems of bonuses, and satisfied civil servants’ ambitions for perks, including stable pension.58

Maliki now had a network of informal contacts reporting to his office, which circumvented the formal legal framework. While this personal network helped Iraq project the image of an efficient state, it was actually fueling personality politics at the expense of efficient institutions. Maliki has described his years as prime minister as being constantly on the phone, micromanaging his networks. He spent time compiling files of corruption and terrorism that could incriminate his rivals, and disbursing promotions and wealth to keep allies.

The more Maliki grew powerful, the more he grew suspicious. His Dawa comrades, especially those with a history of exile in the West, described Maliki as increasingly paranoid, and vulnerable to conspiracy theories that often misguided his decision-making.59 Paranoia and impulsiveness eventually led him to take the wrong decisions.

Limited Networks

Gradually, the Dawa Party aborted its nascent national project and reentered its alliance with Iran-affiliated Iraqi Shia groups. In the run-up to the 2010 parliamentary elections, Maliki established the State of Law Coalition, running separately from other Shia parties, which included candidates with no history in the Dawa or Shia Islamism. “He wanted to cash in on . . . his hard work and grow more powerful than other Shia leaders,” a former Iraqi lawmaker said.60

But Maliki’s constituencies remained limited to the mid-Euphrates and the south. Sectarian stereotypes remained unaddressed. Dawa members, Maliki included, had rarely visited Sunni-majority areas, and kept nurturing grievances against those areas’ middle classes, who they thought had enjoyed privileges during Saddam’s reign. They still viewed Sunni constituents with suspicion, seeing them as complicit in the rise of al-Qaeda, and ready to do anything to return to power. Only a few Sunni commanders, politicians, and tribal leaders were able to enter the Dawa Party and Maliki’s circle of trust—often at the price of betraying their tribe, abusing the population of their hometown, and persecuting anti-government activists.

Nor did the Dawa Party provide a vision for dealing with Iraq’s neighbors or other international actors after the United States exited the country in 2011.61 As the civil war in Syria unfolded, Maliki antagonized the Gulf monarchies and Turkey, which increasingly forced him back into depending on Iran.

Maliki’s Dawa comrades described him as increasingly paranoid, and vulnerable to conspiracy theories.

Eventually, the government failed to consolidate its fragile national credentials. In the 2010 parliamentary elections, the State of Law narrowly lost to Ayad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement (also known as the al-Iraqiya List), which had forged an alliance between secular groups, including both Shia and Sunnis. The loss inflamed Maliki’s obsession with control. He deployed a network of informants and security agencies in the governorates to dismantle al-Iraqiya’s networks. Police chiefs and governors were sacked, and tribal leaders were intimidated or detained as potential terrorists.

Maliki tried but failed to overcome the boundaries of Shia communal politics. Demonstrations in Sunni areas of Iraq and the arming of a Sunni-dominated opposition in neighboring Syria validated and amplified Maliki’s suspicion that a Sunni regional plot was at play in Iraq to threaten him and Shia rule, which pushed him closer to Iran. He quickly returned Badr commanders to senior security roles in intelligence agencies and across the southern governorates. Iran-affiliated paramilitaries were allowed to move freely in Baghdad and send their members to fight in Syria, to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Iran loyalists became the source of intelligence Maliki trusted the most, guiding his decisions on domestic and regional politics, from repression of demonstrations in Sunni areas to breaking ties with neighbors in the Gulf, which he suspected of funding Sunni extremism across Iraq and Syria.

Maliki also stepped up cooperation with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders and former members of the Iran-based opposition, and supported clerics in Najaf against Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the most important clerics in Shia Islam. There was some irony in this new turn—Maliki had opposed Iran’s influence on Iraq’s Shia opposition during his youth, but now he suddenly became an ardent collaborator with Iran.

As the Islamic State swept across Iraq in 2014, it only served to further confirm the suspicions that Maliki had accumulated over a decade. For Maliki, Iran emerged as the only regional ally that the Shia of Iraq could rely on, and Shia-populated areas became the only viable ground for Dawa political support.62

The Story of the End: Haider al-Abadi

The summer of 2014 was a grisly and unnerving season in Iraq. Among numerous other atrocities, the Islamic State massacred more than a thousand Iraqi cadets, mostly Shia, at Camp Speicher in June. By the end of the summer, the extremist group controlled some 70 percent of Anbar governorate, and had advanced to the outskirts of Baghdad. Then, the American military intervened just three years after its vaunted withdrawal in 2011.

Maliki’s premiership felt, to most, like a failure, and actors from multiple political sides became set against him holding the position for a third term. The West held Maliki accountable for the corruption and the sectarianism that enabled the Islamic State to rise. Shia forces he had undermined during his mandates were eager to see him departing. Those pro-Iranian Shia forces who were still on his side stopped defending his personal whims.

The near fall of Iraq to jihadist militants came as a shock to the Dawa Party. “We failed to build a state,” said Fahad al-Shammari, a senior Dawa member I interviewed in 2015.63 Dawa members with a more secular orientation saw the rise of the Islamic State as a warning that the time had come for Shia political Islam to move past ideology, forge cross-sectarian alliances, reform the state, and invest in balanced relations with Iraq’s neighbors, regardless of their sect.64 “The Dawa is a Shia and an Iraqi party. . . . It went too close to Iran, and we lost our independence,” said a younger member of the Dawa, in an interview in 2015.65 “The reform of the state ought to be at the top of the party’s agenda,” Shammari said.66

Other Dawa members had a different, and almost opposite, reading—a difference of opinion that would soon lead to a significant political divide. If anything, the rise of the Islamic State showed that Iraq owed its survival to Iran. Iraq’s Shia parties’ attempt at governing Iraq in cooperation with Kurdish and Sunni parties had failed. Such members viewed intra-Shia solidarity, in the model of Iran’s revolutionary experience, as being the key to resilience. This thinking held that Baghdad would have fallen to the jihadists, had it not been for Sistani’s fatwa calling the population to arms, Shia religious clerics’ intervention in politics, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ support, and transnational Shia military mobilization.67 Thus, Iraq could only exist if it was willing to be the vanguard of the Shia transnational movement.

Sadiq al-Rikabi summarized the evolution of the party’s dilemma: “In 2004, we focused on how to succeed in Baghdad. In 2008, how to succeed in the provinces. By 2010, we were optimistic we could cross the sectarian boundaries. But the rise of [the Islamic State] gave us no other option but to stand with Iran.”68

Thus, in July 2014, as Maliki’s fortune and credibility were at their lowest point, the Dawa Party put Haider al-Abadi forward as its candidate for the prime minister. The nomination was an attempt at a fresh start—and to ensure that other Shia parties didn’t capture the premiership. Abadi was a nonthreatening technocrat, and the Dawa Party also hoped he would be palatable to the West, since Iraq was desperate to have a partner in the fight against the Islamic State.

And yet, Maliki stubbornly held onto his chair, the prime minister’s residency, and his affiliated security forces, pointing to the fact that his State of Law coalition had prevailed in the parliamentary elections earlier in April.69 Finally, Sistani wrote a letter suggesting that a change of prime minister would be advisable to solve the political crisis. Only then did Maliki agree to step down.70

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at a press conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel following talks at the Chancellery on February 6, 2015 in Berlin. Source: Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at a press conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel following talks at the Chancellery on February 6, 2015 in Berlin. Source: Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

A Break from Ethno-Sectarianism?

In the spirit of a fresh start, Abadi spent his years as prime minister (2014–18) trying to leave behind ethno-sectarianism as well as personal power politics, and reinvest in the state. Ultimately, however, his enterprise was limited by a lack of solid allies among Shia forces, and by the legacy of his predecessors. Iraq’s institutions were stacked with public servants who remained personally connected to Maliki. At the end of his term, Abadi’s project remained incomplete, and divisions within the Dawa Party have since gradually led to its demise as the epicenter of Iraqi and Shia politics.

Abadi was of Maliki’s generation of the Dawa Party, but with a different upbringing and history of party activism. Born in Karrada, a central district of Baghdad, Abadi left Iraq in 1976—not as a fugitive, as Maliki did, but as a student, to continue his studies in Manchester, UK. Abadi is a well-traveled member of Baghdad’s urban middle class. This is in sharp contrast to Maliki, a southerner of provincial origins.

In another contrast with Maliki, Abadi worked as a professional in the West while also being a Dawa activist.71 He speaks English fluently, and in the run-up to the invasion he had frequent meetings with Western government officials. A minister of communication in Iraq’s Governing Council (2004) and a lawmaker, Abadi operated as a member of the party’s leadership.

With Abadi as prime minister, the Dawa began to rethink how Shia political Islam fit in a democratically elected state. During Jaafari and Maliki’s terms, the party and its leaders had approached the state as a form of capital, whose positions could be traded with other political forces to consolidate leadership over the country.72

But now, the Dawa Party wanted to invest positively in reforming the state and its institutions. This goal meant that the state needed to retain (or regain) command and control over coercive agencies, including the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) that had answered Sistani’s call to fight the Islamic State. It also meant moving past Shia communal politics and forging cross-sectarian alliances; diversifying international relationships to include not just Iran but also non-Shia neighbors (such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia); and balancing its relations between Iran and the West. Parliamentary politics and alliances with other moderate Iraqi Shia parties would help build cross-sectarian alliances and move past personality politics.73

The Maliki–Abadi Divide

The Maliki–Abadi divide mirrored a deeper fissure among Iraq’s Shia powerbrokers in religion, politics, and the security forces. As the struggle against the Islamic State unfolded, a feud grew over the succession to Sistani (who was already eighty-four years old in 2014). Some clerics argued that whoever succeeded Sistani should stay out of politics; others supported clerical guidance in politics.74 Abadi and the Dawa moderates heavily relied on Sistani’s teachings and affiliated clerics, who argued that clerics should refrain from openly intervening in politics.75

Maliki tapped into ideological differences to advance his cause. He supported rival clerics, and tried to tilt the succession toward scholars advocating for the wilayat al-faqih (the guardianship of the jurist)—a system, like Iran’s, in which clerics have a much more direct role in state affairs. But Maliki’s opposition to Abadi and his Dawa supporters was driven more by self-interest than by ideology. “Maliki does not believe in the wilayat al-faqih,” a cleric in Karbala told me in 2015. “He only believes in his own interest.”76

These rival clerics included Ishat al-Fayyad (a relative of a Dawa Party veteran, Hussein Shahrestani) and Mahmoud Shahroudi. “Much of the future of the course of Shia Islam depends on the succession to Ali Sistani,” Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the senior Dawa cadre, told me from his house in the Kadhimiya neighborhood of Baghdad in 2015.77

Even as Abadi was prime minister, Maliki was the Dawa secretary general, and power within the Dawa Party remained split. Party members describe this as a moment of confusion and crisis. Abadi has even called it a “fitna,” a concept used in Islamic tradition to describe sedition.78

Maliki and Abadi’s differences couldn’t be solved within the Dawa Party structures. In 2015, attempts to establish a committee for reconciliation between two party wings failed.79

“Maliki does not believe in the wilayat al-faqih,” a cleric in Karbala told me in 2015. “He only believes in his own interest.”

During Abadi’s term, the intra-Dawa Party split polarized Shia politics as a whole. In the lead-up to the 2018 elections, Iraq’s Shia politics gathered around two clusters advocating for different visions of Shia political Islam. Ammar al-Hakim, who had a new movement that had splintered away from Badr, and the Sadrists supported Abadi and advocated for the integration of the Popular Mobilization Units, or PMU, into state control. (The PMU are armed groups that rose up to fight the Islamic State in 2014.) At the opposite end, the heirs of the parties and movements with a shared experience of fighting alongside Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (such as the Badr Corps—now the Badr Organization—Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, and the Hezbollah Brigades) bet on transnational Shia ideology. These actors worked to establish the PMU as an institution independent from the state. “Iraq is a line of defense of Iran’s revolutionary experience,” said a member of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq.80 Even the PMU was divided according to these new poles. One branch, the Hashd al-Walay, followed Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, while the other, the Hashd al-Marja’iyya, followed Sistani.

In the 2018 parliamentary elections, Abadi and Maliki competed in rival blocs: Abadi’s Victory Alliance and Maliki’s State of Law. Both blocs lost, and a compromise government was formed under Adil Abdul-Mahdi, with the backing of all the major Shia factions, including Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sa’iroun coalition. This government proved short-lived; Sadr withdrew his backing for the government during the 2019 popular uprising in Iraq, known as the Tishreen movement.81 Abdul-Mahdi resigned and brought to power another fleeting government under Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Early parliamentary elections in October 2021 delivered another victory for the Sadrists, but they were unable to secure enough votes in parliament to form a majority government. This led the Sadrists to withdraw from parliament, allowing Mohammed Shia al-Sudani—the current prime minister—to win the premiership under the aegis of the Coordination Framework, an alliance of non-Sadrist Shia political parties that includes Maliki’s State of Law coalition as well as Abadi’s miniscule Victory Alliance.82

In 2019, Maliki was once again elected secretary of the Dawa Party as the leadership council met in Karbala. Eight members of the leadership boycotted the meeting, criticizing the mechanism used to conduct the election and Maliki’s previous commitment not to put himself forward as a candidate.83 “The Dawa leadership council in Karbala reminded me of the Ba’ath Party Conference in 1979, when Saddam Hussein consolidated his grip on the party and annihilated all mechanisms of consultative decision-making,” a member of the Dawa Party leadership told me. “That marked the end of the Ba’ath Party.”84


There has not been a Dawa prime minister since Abadi. Today, while the Dawa Party has not officially disbanded and none of its notable members has officially left it, the Dawa leadership is geographically dispersed and ideologically split. Party veterans have left Iraq and retired to London. Cadres of Maliki’s generation of activists—most of whom are in the party leadership—have either withdrawn from politics or are too disillusioned to attempt a reunion.85 Younger cadres are sympathetic to a moderate and reformist view, but are still beholden to Maliki’s power, position, and influence within the state. At various points, members of this younger generation have attempted to put themselves forward as candidates for the prime ministry. The Dawa Party headquarters in the Green Zone have been reduced to a place for social gatherings of minor party figures who are still in Iraq. Ultimately unable to shape a vision for their own Shia community and for the state in post-invasion politics, the Dawa Party is dying out.

And where it was once a mediator of Shia politics, the Dawa Party has become the symbol, if not the driver, of the divisions in Shia politics.

The divisions within the Dawa Party track a debate about Shia political Islam that remains unresolved. Should Shia political Islam coexist with non-religious political institutions, as envisioned in the 1992 “Declaration of the Shia of Iraq”? Or, alternatively, should Iraq follow Iran’s revolutionary model of religious clerical guidance? Iraq’s Shia political parties have battled with this dilemma since their time in exile, trying to carve out space for their own version of Iraqi Shia politics.

The outcome of this debate depends on a number of unpredictable variables. One is the succession to the senior clerical leadership (known as the marja’iyya) of the ninety-two-year-old Sistani. Another is the future of Iran’s Islamic republic. These variables will be defining factors guiding the course of Iraqi Shia politics. In a similar way, the ability of the Iraqi Shia street to change the course of institutional politics remains an unknown but determinant variable. Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement is the only one with a popular constituency that is able to challenge, through street mobilization, the ethno-sectarian system that allowed Maliki and his allies to prevail.

At the time of writing, Sadr has failed in such attempts. During the summer of 2022, his decision to withdraw Sadrist lawmakers from parliament in spite of having won more votes than Maliki in the parliamentary elections undermined Sadr’s chances to select the prime minister. Sadr also lacked sufficient Iraqi political allies. Kurdish and Sunni politics remained anchored to the post-2003 system, dominated by communal concerns and powerful personalities. What’s more, they continue to find in Maliki a helpful ally.

While the debate around Shia political Islam remains open, Iraqi politics is likely to unfold alongside some predictable patterns, shaped under the influence of former Dawa prime ministers. Any prime minister will have to deal with the legacy that fifteen years of Dawa politics has left. The ethno-sectarian system that dominated Iraq’s post-invasion politics under Jaafari is likely to continue, guiding the process of selection of prime minister. The selection of Sudani is a testament to such resilience, since he is a compromise between personalities monopolizing representation of the Kurdish, Shia, and Sunni communities.

Personality politics—perhaps the heaviest legacy of Maliki’s time in office—are also likely to dominate representation within each community, reducing space for political parties to play an active role. The prime minister, regardless of his or her affiliation, will have to balance between the rival trends of Shia politics, and relationships with Arab and non-Arab neighbors, the West, and the Global South. Yet, any prime minister will be caught in the Catch-22 of having to play politics according to the established rules, while struggling against these same rules in order to address the mounting governance challenges that Iraq faces.

Above all, the competition between competing strands of Shia politics—which three Dawa prime ministers could neither placate nor resolve—is more relevant than ever, and will continue to shape Iraq’s political system.

This report is part of “Faith and Fracture,” a TCF project supported by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Open Society Foundations.

Header image: Shia Iraqis carry a picture of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari during a demonstration on December 25, 2005 in Baghdad. Source: Wathiq Khuzaie /Getty Images


  1. The report relies on both primary and secondary sources, including some twenty hours of Arabic-language television interviews and in-person interviews with ten Dawa leaders of different generations. Author interviews with Dawa’s members include Sadiq al-Rikabi, Baghdad, September 2015; Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Baghdad, September 2015 and May 2018; Fahad al-Shammari, Najaf, September 2015; Hussein Shubbar, Najaf, September 2015; Adnan al-Zurfi, Najaf, September 2015; Abbas al-Bayati, multiple interviews with the author, Baghdad, 2015–22; Ibrahim al-Jaafari, interview with the author, Baghdad, September 2015.
  2. See Hanna Batatu, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978). For an analysis of the economic conditions of rural Shia districts in Iraq see Hanna Batatu, “Iraq’s Underground Shia Movements: Characteristics, Causes, and Prospects,” Middle East Journal 35, no. 4 (1981): 582–84.
  3. “Interview with Ibrahim al-Jaafari” (in Arabic), Al Iraqiya, uploaded to the YouTube channel of Ibrahim al-Jaafari (@aljaffaary, unverified) in January to February 2013, in four different segments: segment one,; segment two,; segment three,; segment four,
  4. Rikabi, interview.
  5. Rikabi, interview.
  6. Al Iraqiya, “Interview with Ibrahim al-Jaafari.”
  7. Talib Aziz, “The Role of Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr in Shi’i Political Activism in Iraq from 1958 to 1980,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 25, no. 2 (1993): 207–22.
  8. Dai Yamao, “Transformation of the Islamic Da’wa Party in Iraq: From the Revolutionary Period to the Diaspora Era,” Asian and African Area Studies 7, no. 2 (2008): 242; and Dai Yamao, “Iraqi Islamist Parties in International Politics: The Impact of Historical and International Politics on Political Conflict in Post-war Iraq,” International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies 6, no. 1 (2012): 27–52.
  9. Bayati, interview.
  10. Aziz, “The Role of Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr,” 216.
  11. Ibid., 214.
  12. Yamao, “Transformation of the Islamic Da‘wa Party,” 253.
  13. Al Iraqiya, “Interview with Ibrahim al-Jaafari.”
  14. “Interview with Nouri al-Maliki” (in Arabic), Al Iraqiya, uploaded to YouTube in September 2012, in three different segments: segment 1, uploaded to the channel of ICVtube (@ICVtube),; segment 2, uploaded to the channel Qana’at al-Iraqia al-Akhbaria (@IraqiaNews),; and segment 3, uploaded to the channel Qana’at al-Iraqia al-Akhbaria (@IraqiaNews),
  15. Elvire Corboz, “Between Action and Symbols: The Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and Its Bid for Political Leadership,” in Writing the Modern History of Iraq: Historiographical and Political Challenges, ed. Peter Sluglett and Jordi Tejel (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Company, 2012), 339–58.
  16. Al Iraqiya, “Interview with Nouri al-Maliki.”
  17. Rikabi, interview.
  18. Corboz, “Between Action and Symbols,” 354.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Yamao, “Transformation of the Islamic Da‘wa Party,” 250.
  21. Al Iraqiya, “Interview with Ibrahim al-Jaafari.”
  22. Batatu, “Iraq’s Underground Shia Movements,” 593.
  23. Rikabi, interview.
  24. Ibid.
  25. See the composition of SCIRI’s central committee (1982–86) as described in Elvire Corboz, Guardians of Shi’ism: Sacred Authority and Transnational Family Networks (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 38. See also Corboz, “Between Action and Symbols,” 339.
  26. Al Iraqiya, “Interview with Ibrahim al-Jaafari.”
  27. Ibid.
  28. Juan Cole, “Shiite Religious Parties Fill in the Vacuum in Southern Iraq,” MERIP, April 22, 2003,
  29. For example, Abdul Karim al-Anizi, a veteran of a Dawa splinter faction ideologically closer to Iran, replaced Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a London-based Dawa exile, in the position of national security adviser.
  30. “Jaysh al-Mahdi,” Institute for the Study of War,
  31. Al Iraqiya, “Interview with Nouri al-Maliki.”
  32. Former Iraqi lawmaker, interview with the author by phone, April 2023.
  33. Al Iraqiya, “Interview with Nouri al-Maliki.”
  34. Ibid.
  35. Ibid.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Ali A. Allawi, The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 49.
  38. “Shiite Politics in Iraq: The Role of the Supreme Islamic Council,” International Crisis Group, November 5, 2007,
  39. Rubaie, interview. See full declaration “Declaration of the Shia of Iraq,”
  40. Shammari, interview.
  41. U.S. State Department diplomat, interview with the author, Amman, September 2022.
  42. Al Iraqiya, “Interview with Nouri al-Maliki.”
  43. New Parker and Raheem Salman, “Notes from the Underground: The Rise of Nouri Al-Maliki and the New Islamists,” World Policy Journal 30, no. 1 (2013): 63–76.
  44. Yamao, “Transformation of the Islamic Da‘wa Party,” 253.
  45. Shammari, interview
  46. Bayati, interview.
  47. Allawi, The Occupation of Iraq, 50.
  48. Al Iraqiya, “Interview with Nouri al-Maliki.”
  49. Ibid.
  50. Bayati, interview.
  51. Ali al-Dabbagh, member of the Constitution Drafting Committee, interview with the author, Baghdad, September 2022.
  52. Maria Fantappie “Politicians and Officers: Political Transition in Post-2003 Iraq,” Third World Quarterly Special Iraq Edition (forthcoming).
  53. Al Iraqiya, “Interview with Nouri al-Maliki.”
  54. Bayati, interview.
  55. Ibid.
  56. Maria Fantappie, “Contested Consolidation of Power in Iraq,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 2013,
  57. Lisa Blaydes, State of Repression (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018).
  58. See for instance, Retirement Law (27) amended in 2007, accessible at; and Law on Salaries and Grades of Public Sector Employees (2008),
  59. Former Iraqi lawmaker, interview with the author, Baghdad, 2015.
  60. Former Iraqi lawmaker, interview with the author, Baghdad, September 2022.
  61. Al Iraqiya, “Interview with Ibrahim al-Jaafari.”
  62. Rikabi, interview.
  63. Shammari, interview.
  64. Ibid.
  65. Member of the Dawa Party, interview with the author, Najaf, 2015.
  66. Shammari, interview.
  67. Member of Basra governorate council, interview with the author, Basra, September 2015.
  68. Rikabi, interview.
  69. “Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Quits,” uploaded to the YouTube channel of the Wall Street Journal (@wsj), August 15, 2014,
  70. “An Exclusive Interview with Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Haider al-Abadi” (in Arabic), Al Iraqiya, uploaded to the YouTube channel Qana’at al-Iraqia al-Akhbaria (@IraqiaNews), September 16, 2014,
  71. Rubaie, interview, Baghdad,, 2018.
  72. Shammari, interview.
  73. Bayati, interview.
  74. Marsin Alshamary, “Religious Peacebuilding in Iraq: Prospects and Challenges from the Hawza,” Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 15, no. 4 (2021): 494–509.
  75. Shammari, interview.
  76. Interview with the author, Karbala, September 2015.
  77. Rubaie, interview, 2015.
  78. Al Iraqiya, “An Exclusive Interview with Haider al-Abadi”.
  79. Shubbar, interview.
  80. Interview with the author, Basra, 2019.
  81. Maria Fantappie, “Widespread Protests Point to Iraq’s Cycle of Social Crisis,” International Crisis Group, October 10, 2019,
  82. Taif Alkhudary et al., “A Summer of Danger for Iraq—With Little Hope for Change,” Century International, August 8, 2022, Fantappie, “Why Iraq’s Consociation Has Become a Driver of Chronic Instability,” SAIS Review of International Affairs, December 23, 2022,
  83. Adnan Abu Zeed, “Division Threatens Islamic Dawa after Maliki’s Reelection,” Al-Monitor, August 3, 2019,
  84. Member of the Dawa Party leadership, interview with the author by phone, April 2023.
  85. Bayati, interview.