Nobody really knows what the US’ foreign policy in the Middle East will look like once the president-elect, Donald Trump, takes power in January. Statements that the reality-TV-star-turned-politician has made on the subject so far have been confused. There is no doubt though that his presidency will have an impact on Iraq, one way or another.
The average Iraqi tends not to worry too much about the US' internal politics. However the unexpected result of last week’s presidential election saw even Iraq paying attention. And some of the locals have been busy hiding any concerns they may have behind a bit of humour. Facebook is the chosen social media platform of most Iraqis and after it was announced that Trump had won, Iraqi comedians got busy there.
Given the kinds of statements Trump made during the presidential campaign, it is perhaps unsurprising that Iraqis compared Trump to their own former leader, the dictator Saddam Hussein.
One of the more unusual comparisons being made was with a man called Ahad Abu Shadrak al-Atabi. He is just an average Iraqi from Wasit province, south of Baghdad. Yet somehow Iraqis believe he bears an uncanny resemblance to the US’ next president so his pictures have circulated online with the legend: Trump, the Iraqi version.
Iraqis also made videos in honour of the president-elect. One video dubbed over Trump campaign speeches with Iraqi dialect, where the Iraqi Trump spoke about what happens “when you get rid of one damn leader”.
Comedian Ahmad Wahid, who is well known for his weekly satire, dressed up as Trump and gave a political speech. “People of Iraq, you will need to take care of your own business now,” Wahid-as-Trump said. “Some of you were happy that I criticized the Gulf States but in about two months I will go and dance with their leaders. Some of you like [Turkish leader] Erdogan and some of you like [Russian leader] Putin. In the end, we will all sit down together but we will discuss what is in their countries’ interests, not the interests of Iraq.”
“Some Iraqis have been busy flirting with my daughter on Facebook,” he cautioned.
In another video four young Iraqi artists congratulate Trump on his win but then ask how he managed to be victorious in politics without bribing anyone or distributing favours? This is an indirect criticism of the country’s own politicians.
And then of course there was Iraqi TV personality, Abu Ali al-Shaibani. He is a controversial figure in Iraq because he claims to speak to spirits and be able to cure diseases. Before the election, al-Shaibani had predicted – like so many US polls – that Hillary Clinton would win. When he was proven wrong last week, many of his viewers teased him and made jokes about him. In his next broadcast, al-Shaibani claimed that he had only been pretending, that he had said Clinton would win simply to “hide the truth”. Cue laughter. Hysterical laughter.