Pro-Sadr Demonstrators Breach Iraq’s Heavily Protected Green Zone

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BAGHDAD: On Wednesday, hundreds of people who support the influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr broke into the heavily guarded government Green Zone in the city to protest the choice of a rival bloc as prime minister. They then stormed parliament.

The protests are the latest problem for oil-rich Iraq, which is still facing political and economic crises even though the price of oil is going up around the world.

Nobody from the government was there. Inside the building, there were only security guards, and it looked like they made it easy for the protesters to get in.

A security source who spoke to AFP on the condition of anonymity said that protesters “stormed the parliament” after police shot a lot of tear gas to get rid of them. The state news agency INA wrote on the messaging service Telegram that “protesters had taken over the parliament building.”

Along with the breach, Iraq saw the largest protest since the elections in October. Mohammed Al-recent Sudani was chosen as the official candidate of the Coordination Framework coalition, which is made up of Shiite parties and is backed by Iran and its allies. This made the protesters angry.

Pro-Sadr Demonstrators Breach Iraq's Heavily Protected Green Zone

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi told the protesters to “immediately leave” the heavily guarded Green Zone, which is where government buildings and diplomatic missions are located.

In a warning statement, he said that security staff would be responsible for “protecting state institutions and foreign missions and preventing any disruption to security and order.”

Riot police used water cannons to stop protesters from tearing down cement blast barricades. A lot of people broke into the area, which is home to government buildings and embassies from other countries.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the parliament building and marched down the main street in the area.
At the main gates, there were groups of riot police. Demonstrators gathered at the two entrances to the Green Zone. Some of them climbed the cement wall while shouting, “Sudani, get out!”

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After the election in October 2021, Sadr’s coalition had 73 members. This made it the largest group in the parliament, which had 329 seats. Since the referendum, though, it has taken longer to put together a new government.

Nouri Al-Maliki, the leader of the State of Law and a former prime minister, chose Al-Sudani. Before Al-Sudani can be sworn in as the next prime minister, the parties must first choose a president.

Last month, 73 lawmakers from Sadr’s party suddenly quit in an attempt to break the stalemate over making a new government. This made the political crisis in Iraq even worse.

Later in June, 64 more Iraqi lawmakers were sworn in. This made the group of lawmakers who support Iran the largest in parliament.

When the Coordination Framework was first proposed, Sadr supported the idea of a “majority government,” which would have forced his Shiite rivals to take a stand.

Pro-Sadr Demonstrators Breach Iraq's Heavily Protected Green Zone

Then, many people were shocked when the former militia leader forced his lawmakers to quit. This was seen as an attempt to put pressure on his rivals so that they would form a government faster.

Earlier this month, hundreds of thousands of Muslims who supported Sadr went to a Friday prayer service in Baghdad. This was a show of political power meant to get talks about forming a cabinet moving again after they had stalled.

Even though the Shiite cleric wasn’t there, there was a big crowd, which shows how important he is as a religious and political leader. In his sermon, the crazy preacher criticized rival Shiite groups, including a powerful group of former paramilitaries.

Sadr said in his speech on July 15 that “we are at a difficult… crossroads in the creation of the government, entrusted to people we do not trust.” He said that some groups had shown they were “not up to the job.”

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