Moqtada Al-Sadr’s ‘true withdrawal’ from politics leads to unrest in Baghdad and a nationwide curfew

The Iraqi army ordered, Monday, August 29, a nationwide curfew from 7 p.m. (6 p.m. Paris), after hundreds of supporters of Moqtada Sadr stormed the headquarters of the Council of Ministers Baghdad in reaction to “permanent withdrawal” in the Shiite leader’s policy.

Religious and political leader’s sympathies “entered the Palace of the Republic”, located in the ultra-secure “green zone” whose access is closed, said a security source on condition of anonymity. Live ammunition was heard there, according to reporters from Agence France-Presse (AFP) in the area.

According to a medical source quoted by AFP, eight supporters of the Shiite leader were killed and at least 85 were injured. Witnesses said those responsible for the shooting were supporters of the Coordination Framework, the pro-Iran rival of the Sadrists. In addition, the security forces fired tear gas canisters to disperse the sadrists at the entrances to the “green zone”, a security source said.

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Some government buildings were filled

The Palace of the Republic is located in the iconic ‘Green Zone’ of Baghdad. Built under Saddam Hussein, it was used by the former dictator to receive distinguished guests and now houses the Council of Ministers.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazimi suspended him “until further notice”called Moqtada Sadr to “order protesters to withdraw from government institutions”. The UN mission in Iraq, whose headquarters is in the “green zone”, for its part, called on the demonstrators to leave the area, urging all parties to “maximum restraint”. US Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby said the violence was “disturbing” and called the “calm” and on “dialogue”.

In the streets of Baghdad, several thousand Sadrists marched toward this downtown wall, chanting “Moqtada! Moqtada! », according to an AFP reporter. At night, the chaos spread to other regions of Iraq: in the province of Zi Qar (southern), many Sadrists stormed the governor’s seat and entered other official buildings in Nassiriyah, according to AFP.

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The seat of the governor of Babylon (center), in the city of Hilla, was also occupied by supporters of Moqtada Sadr, the witnesses said. Several roads connecting Hilla to Baghdad and other southern provinces were also cut. For fear of overkill, the Iraqi army first ordered a “curfew in the capital”before it is extended to the entire country.

“Definitive withdrawal” of Moqtada Al-Sadr from politics

Moqtada al-Sadr, in November 2021.

In the morning, Mr. Al-Sadr announced his “permanent withdrawal” politics. “I have decided not to interfere in political affairs. So today I announce my final withdrawal and the closing of all institutions except the Sacred Mausoleum [de son père Mohammed Sadeq Al-Sadr mort en 1999]the Honor Museum and the Al-Sadr Heritage Authority”, he wrote on Twitter.

The highly influential Shiite cleric, accustomed to beatings, announced his withdrawal as Iraq has been mired in a deep political crisis since legislative elections in October 2021. Rich in oil but burdened by a severe economic and social crisis, the country still does not have a new prime minister or a new government, the Shiite forces, including Mr. Al-Sadr’s, have failed to agree in their way of teaching.

For weeks, Mr. Al-Sadr, who has thousands of supporters among the population, has called for the dissolution of Parliament and new legislative measures to try to resolve the crisis. In general, it requires a “reform” from the top to the bottom of the Iraqi political system and finally to “corruption”. He currently leads the legislative elections but, unable to form a majority, he had his deputies resign in June.

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“No room for reform”

For Hamzeh Hadad, guest researcher at the European Council for International Relations (ECFR), the announcement of “withdrawal” by Moqtada Sadr “not very clear”. “In sadrist tradition, we can expect him to back down”, he said in an interview with AFP. However, “and that’s even scarier, you might think he’s giving his followers the green light to do whatever they want, saying he’s not responsible for their actions”.

Last Saturday, Moqtada Sadr suggested that “all parties” in place since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 – including himself – have resigned from the government positions they held to resolve the crisis. He immediately gave it “72 hours”otherwise “no room for reform”.

The conflict between him and his Shiite enemies in the Coordination Framework has not yet descended into armed clashes, but the Hachd Al-Chaabi, former paramilitary allies of Tehran and integrated with Iraqi forces, are said to be ready. on “defense of state institutions”.

Born in 1974, he himself has not ruled since the fall of former dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003. But from his stronghold in the holy city of Najaf (center), his religious and political aura has drawn the share of most of Shiite community in Iraq.

The World with AFP

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