Observers question ability of Iraq’s Prime Minister to fight corruption

TML source confirms new steps Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani will take to fight rampant corruption in Iraq, under pressure from the United States

 A bank note from Iraq with a picture of Saddam Hussein. (photo credit: IAN BARBOUR/FLICKR)
A bank note from Iraq with a picture of Saddam Hussein.
(photo credit: IAN BARBOUR/FLICKR)

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani will take “new steps … to reduce the rampant corruption in Iraq, due to US administration pressure," a source with knowledge of the decisions told The Media Line. 

For more stories from The Media Line go to

The Iraqi prime minister "will take several steps toward the transition to electronic payments, and end government procedures electronically to eliminate part of corruption," according to the source. 

He said that the Sudani government also will take other steps to improve the structure of state administration, “including steps to ensure the implementation of projects, and the refusal to contract directly with companies except through a board dedicated to tenders and auctions."

"The prime minister is also considering ending all government procedures through the internet, which will greatly reduce corruption and transgression of the law," the source added.

He said many of those accused of corruption in Iraq “have been referred to the courts and the judiciary, but so far those who have been referred are those who belong to weak parties, or that do not have many seats in parliament."

 US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and President of the Kurdistan region in Iraq Nechirvan Barzani shake hands as they attend a joint news conference, in Erbil, Iraq March 7, 2023. (credit: AZAD LASHKARI/REUTERS) US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and President of the Kurdistan region in Iraq Nechirvan Barzani shake hands as they attend a joint news conference, in Erbil, Iraq March 7, 2023. (credit: AZAD LASHKARI/REUTERS)

Politicians whose supporters have many seats in parliament or those that belong to the Shiite Muslim political parties that supported Sudani “have not been touched so far," he added.

Pressures to fight corruption

The source said that the Biden administration in Washington is pressing hard to eliminate corruption inside of Iraq “beginning with the central bank and currency smuggling, and then the next stage with government projects.

Meanwhile, there will be measures taken against officials “who have inflated bank accounts, but the solution is, as always, through the purchase of real estate."

Sudani is not the first prime minister to talk about fighting corruption immediately after assuming office; in fact, most previous prime ministers have discussed fighting corruption, but some of them have managed to greatly inflate their bank accounts, as has been revealed in local news reports.

According to Iraqi news reports, former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's wealth has ballooned to $60 billion, while the wealth of his son, Ahmed, has reached more than $40 billion.

Nouri al-Maliki belongs to the Dawa Party, the same party to which Sudani belongs.

The source said that there are “hundreds of thousands of fictitious employees” of the government, including an estimated tens of thousands of “ghost soldiers.” He added that: “More of them will be revealed soon."

"The current system requires that every militia operating within the Popular Mobilization Forces puts names and the number of people working for it, and accordingly gets salaries and support from the government, but we discovered that the numbers on paper are many times what is in reality, and the salary differences go to the heads of these groups,” he said, referring to the state-sponsored umbrella organization of militia groups of various ideologies that operates in Iraq. 

"The Popular Mobilization Forces will be integrated into the security forces – but not now, and the numbers and names of militia members will also be verified," he said.

"The same applies to those working in the offices of officials, whether they are guards, advisors, or others. Unfortunately, we have hundreds of thousands of 'aliens,’" he said.

Hajj al-Suwaidi, a leader in Asaib Ahl al-Haq – one of the Iranian-backed militias, told The Media Line that: "Everyone wants to fight corruption."

"The Popular Mobilization is not corrupt. There are corruption files in the Ministry of Education, Works and Housing, and others. The Popular Mobilization is a sacred institution that will not be touched," he asserted.

Suwaidi added that "Asaib Ahl al-Haq will not accept the integration of its fighters into the security forces. We played a role that the Iraqi army did not play in getting rid of ISIS."

He says that it will not be possible to reduce the Popular Mobilization’s budget, and allow for a review of the members of the armed groups. "No one can do that. We will keep the identities of our fighters’ secret. Let them go to fight real corruption away from Asaib Ahl al-Haq. We will not allow anyone to touch this sacred power." 

Abu Ali al-Askari, the security official in Iraq's Hizbullah Brigades, told The Media Line: "No one can harm the resistance, otherwise our blood is cheap."

There are some who doubt that the prime minister will be able to stop corruption.

Saad al-Khafaji, an Iraqi journalist and political activist with a presence on social media, told The Media Line: "The current prime minister will not succeed in eliminating corruption."

"He came to power as a result of a corruption deal, and therefore corruption will continue in Iraq. It may decrease slightly, but it will not be completely eliminated," he added. 

Al-Khafaji said that the fictitious “alien” employees have been on the books for years. 

 "They know very well who the imaginary employees are,” he said. “The file appeared for the first time during the era of Nouri al-Maliki, and none of the successive prime ministers resolved it."

"The truth is that everyone is corrupt, and no one will go to court, because if one of them goes, everyone will fall into corruption files, one after the other, like dominoes," he concluded. 

Imad Fadel, a retired engineer from the Sunni Endowment Office, told The Media Line that those "responsible for caring for mosques and Sunni places of worship" also have been caught in corruption schemes. 

The former head of the Sunni Endowment, Saad Kambash, was arrested on corruption charges in August, “but the government has known about corruption for several years,” Fadel said. "Now the files have been transferred to the new president, and he also deals with the same parties and people, and stole hundreds of millions, even though it is endowment money."

"Saad Kambash was arrested after the party to which he belonged lost the parliamentary elections, and therefore he was easily sacrificed,” Fadel explained. 

Ahmed Ayash al-Samarrai, Secretary General of the Iraqi Civil Youth Movement, told The Media Line that: "Unfortunately, there will be no real fight against corruption."

"We hope so, but the reality on the ground is different. Militias will kill thousands to stop corruption detection," he added. "Corruption has become part of the ruling system in Iraq, and it cannot be abandoned."