Political parties in Iraq are in deadlock amid a 10-month row over government formation
Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr pull down a wall with chains and ropes during a protest against corruption in Baghdad, Iraq. Reuters
Jul 27, 2022
Protesters loyal to nationalist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr in Baghdad on Wednesday stormed a government complex known as the International Zone, or Green Zone, reportedly breaking down several concrete barriers despite attempts by security guards to stop them with water cannons.
The International Zone hosts Iraq’s Parliament, foreign embassies and residencies of several of the country’s politicians, including the offices of a number of Cabinet ministers.
The protesters — crowds of whom were seen inside the parliament building talking to security guards on Wednesday evening, were rallying against the nomination of Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, a veteran politician aligned with former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki.
In scenes that resembled a repeat of May 2016 unrest — when the International Zone was stormed by thousands of Sadrist protesters who ransacked parliament — security forces were seen to be exercising restraint.
Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi, who leads a caretaker government and is currently in western Iraq’s Anbar province inaugurating a new power station, called on demonstrators to “preserve public and private property, and to “listen to instructions of the security forces responsible for protecting them in accordance with the regulations and laws and to immediately withdraw from the Green Zone.”
Mr Al Maliki is a long-time rival of Mr Al Sadr, whose militia fought against security forces loyal to the former prime minister in the southern port city of Basra in 2008.
Mr Al Sadr commands hundreds of thousands of loyal supporters, mainly hailing from impoverished urban areas and rural parts of the south, as well as a stronghold in Baghdad known as Sadr City.
His political bloc won the plurality of seats in Iraq’s Parliament in the October elections, but he withdrew 73 MPs from the body in June, decrying the entire political process as corrupt.
The withdrawal from Parliament has left Mr Al Sadr’s Iran-backed rivals in the Co-ordination Framework bloc in the lead position to form a government, which will include Mr Al Maliki and Mr Al Sudani, as well as a number of figures closely aligned to Iran, including Hadi Al Amiri and Qais Al Khazali who both control large militia groups.
Mr Al Sadr has vowed to hold frequent demonstrations to protest against government failure to provide jobs and services, although he retains strong influence within a number of ministries.
Thousands of Sadrist supporters last stormed the Green Zone in 2016, assaulting and injuring an MP and taking over the National Assembly building before peacefully leaving the complex. A second attempt months later left at least seven people killed.