Iraq Political Crisis: Know Who is Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr and why his followers stormed Presidential Palace
Iraq Political Crisis: Nine months after Iraq successfully held its parliamentary elections, the country has now plunged into a political crisis after Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr announced his pledge to leave Iraqi politics. While the country has been going through political uncertainty since its leaders failed to form a government after the October Parliamentary Elections. The 10-month period since then has been the longest that Iraq has been without a stable government since US Invasion.
Disaster unfolding in Baghdad #Iraq tonight. Video shows live ammunition, heavy gunfire, rockets fired over Green Zone where protestors are being pushed away. Full implosion: pic.twitter.com/X5sVfgB4f0
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam)
August 29, 2022
On Monday, 29th August, Influential Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr announced his pledge to leave Iraqi politics after failing to negotiate a deal to form a government. Following his announcement, his supporters stormed the presidential palace in the capital’s fortified Green Zone — which houses government buildings and foreign embassies. A day after, on 30th August, 23 supporters of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were killed and more than 380 injured as protesters clashed with Iraq’s military in Baghdad.
The roots of the violent political crisis unfolding in Iraq lie in the impasse that political leaders have failed to address since the October 2021 Parliamentary Elections. In the October Elections, Muqtada al-Sadr – one of the most influential and powerful Shiite clericas well as the founder of the most powerful political faction in the country, won the elections but failed to negotiate the formulation of a new government after excluding rival Shia Leaders. Due to this political impasse, a caretaker government was put in place in Iraq
Who is Muqtada al-Sadr?
As reported earlier, Muqtada al-Sadr is an Iraqi Shia scholar, militia leader and the founder of the most powerful political faction in the country. He is the founder of theSadrist movement, which is nationalist in nature and draws support from the poor people of the Shiite community across the country.He also heads Peace Companies – a successor to militia group Jaysh al-Mahdi or the “Mahdi Army” which he had led previously during the American military presence.
Iraqi Parliament Stormed in late-July
The October 2021 Parliamentary Elections in Iraq saw Al-Sadr’s party win 74 seats out of the 329-seat parliament. However, he was unable to negotiate a deal to form a government with other members of the alliance, which threw the country into a political impasse. In June 2022, al-Sadr ordered 74 legislators of the Sadrist Movement to resign from the Iraqi Parliament. These were replaced and the Council of Representatives swore in 73 new members in their place.
This led to al-Sadr losing his dominance in the Parliament while an alliance of Iran-backed parties led by Nouri al-Maliki grew their strength to 130. The Coordination Framework blocfloated the name of Mohammed al-Sudani, a pro-Iranian politician for the post of Prime Minister. In response to this, demonstrators, primarily from the Sadrist Movement, stormed the Iraqi Parliament chanting anti-Iranian slogans. Soon thereafter, al-Sadr ordered his followers “to return safely to your homes”.
Protests, Clashes within Green Zone
Following al-Sadr’s announcement of quitting Iraqi politics, his followers stormed the Greenzone – a fortified area within the capital Baghdad which houses government buildings and foreign embassies. Media reports have confirmed that during the storming of the capital, 23 supporters of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were killed and more than 380 injured as protesters clashed with Iraq’s military in Baghdad.
The latest updates have confirmed that Influential Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has asked his supporters to leave the capital’s Green Zone. In a televised addresshe said, “The party is disciplined and obedient, and I was my hands of those who do not withdraw from parliament building within an hour.” He also apologized to the Iraqi people for the violence which raged for two days in Baghdad and led to the death of 30 people.
Following al-Sadr’s televised address, United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) welcomed Sadr’s call for protesters to leave the Green Zone.Along similar lines, Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi also hailed him as a true patriot for asking his supporters to end the protests.
His Eminence Muqtada Al-Sadr’s call to stop violence is the epitome of patriotism and respect to the sanctity of Iraqi blood.
His speech emplaces national and moral duty upon all to protect Iraq and stop political escalation and violence and, to immediately engage in dialogue.
— Mustafa Al-Kadhimiمصطفى الكاظمي (@MAKadhimi)
August 30, 2022
The decision to announce his retirement from Iraqi politics is looked upon by many commentators as a way for al-Sadr to revive his political fortunes after his decision to order 73 elected legislators from his party to resign from the Parliament backfired. With the latest storming, he has shown that even if his supporters are not seated in parliament, he cannot be ignored by Iraq’s politicians. His ability to mass-mobilise people and use them to his political advantage can get him back into Iraq’s power circles.