Resumption of fighting in Baghdad, 23 dead since Monday
Iraqi President Barham Saleh spoke out on Tuesday in favor of early legislative elections after the withdrawal of supporters of Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr from the Green Zone in Baghdad, the scene of fighting that left 30 dead in 24 hours.
Rich in oil, the country has been shaken by a serious socio-economic crisis coupled with a political stalemate since the legislative elections of October 2021.
‘The holding of new early elections (…) with a national consensus represents a way out’ of the crisis, Mr. Saleh declared in a televised speech. Such a vote would ‘guarantee political and social stability and meet the aspirations of Iraqis’, he added.
The holding of legislative news, demanded by Moqtada Sadr, requires the dissolution of Parliament which can be requested by a third of the elected officials or by the Prime Minister with the agreement of the President of the Republic. This dissolution must then be approved by an absolute majority of the assembly.
Barham Saleh’s speech came hours after the end of deadly clashes in Baghdad between supporters of Moqtada Sadr, on the one hand, and law enforcement and supporters of the Coordination Framework, Moqtada’s rival alliance Sadr, which brings together pro-Iran groups including that of Hachd al-Chaabi, on the other.
Monday, immediately after the announcement of the influential Moqtada Sadr of his ‘retirement’ from political life, of which he is nevertheless a key player, thousands of his supporters invaded the seat of government in the Green Zone, an ultra-protected sector. of the capital which also hosts the American embassy, which had led to the fighting.
‘If all the members of the Sadrist Current do not withdraw within 60 minutes from everywhere (in Baghdad), even from the sit-in (in front of the Parliament), I will disavow them’, launched Tuesday Moqtada Sadr during a conference of press in his stronghold of Najaf (center).
Denouncing acts ‘marred by violence’, he presented his ‘apologies to the Iraqi people’.
After his call, his supporters left the Green Zone and the guns fell silent. The fighters gave way to municipal employees who cleaned up the traces of clashes.
The fighting between, on the one hand, the Peace Brigades, an armed faction under the orders of Moqtada Sadr, and, on the other, the security forces and Hachd al-Chaabi, former paramilitaries integrated into the regular forces of the other, resumed on Tuesday morning after a relatively calm night.
According to a latest report provided by a medical source, at least 30 supporters of Moqtada Sadr have been shot dead since Monday and 570 people injured in the Green Zone.
The Coordinating Framework, which had condemned an ‘attack on state institutions’, called on ‘Parliament and other institutions to resume their activities’.
The US Embassy hailed the end of the fighting and urged ‘all Iraqis to let government institutions continue their work’.
Iraq has been mired in political stalemate since the October 2021 parliamentary elections won by Moqtada Sadr, as political barons were unable to agree on the name of a new prime minister. And the country therefore has neither a new government nor a new president since the election.
To get out of the crisis, Moqtada Sadr and the Coordination Framework agree on one point: new elections are needed. But if Moqtada Sadr insists on dissolving parliament first, his rivals want the formation of a government first.
‘Violence and destabilization’
Arriving first in the legislative elections with 73 seats (out of 329) but unable to form a majority, he had his deputies resign in June, claiming to want to ‘reform’ the system and put an end to ‘corruption’.
Moqtada Sadr knows that he can count on the support of a large section of the Shiite community, the majority in Iraq.
His supporters camped for a month near Parliament in the Green Zone. Tuesday, as soon as their leader called to withdraw, the sadrists dismantled the tents they had set up, before leaving the scene.
By choosing to send them to the Green Zone and then withdraw them, Moqtada Sadr ‘shows (…) the extent of his base, in particular to his opponents’, believes Renad Mansour of the Chatham House think tank.
‘The strategy of violence and destabilization is part of Sadr’s negotiation tactics,’ he said.
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