Iraq Protesters Begin Withdrawal After Sadr Demands Deadly Clashes End

iraq protest

Instability in Iraq has not ended in Iraq despite withdrawal of a fighting group. Iraqi supporters of powerful cleric Moqtada Sadr began withdrawing Tuesday from Baghdad’s Green Zone after he demanded fighting end between rival Shiite forces and the army that left 23 dead and hundreds wounded.

The violence that erupted on Monday pitched Sadr loyalists against Shiite factions backed by neighboring Iran, with the sides exchanging gunfire across barricades — violence the UN warned risked tipping the war-ravaged country deeper into chaos.

Moments after Sadr’s speech was broadcast live on television, his supporters were seen beginning to leave the Green Zone, and minutes after that, the army lifted a nation-wide curfew.

Sadr, a grey-bearded preacher with millions of devoted followers, gave followers “60 minutes” to withdraw after which he would threatened to “disavow” those who remained.

“I apologize to the Iraqi people, the only ones affected by the events,” Sadr, who once led a militia against U.S. and Iraqi government forces after the 2003 U.S.-led overthrow of  president Saddam Hussein,  told reporters from his base in the central Iraqi city of Najaf.

Tensions have soared in Iraq amid a political crisis that has left the country without a new government, prime minister or president for months.

They escalated sharply after Sadr’s supporters on Monday afternoon stormed the government palace inside the high-security Green Zone following their leader’s announcement that he was quitting politics.

Dangerous Escalation 

Overnight, shelling targeted the Green Zone that houses government buildings and diplomatic missions, amid angry protests after Sadr’s surprised many by announcing his “definitive retirement”.

Clashes continued on Tuesday morning, with the rattle of automatic gunfire and heavier explosions of rocket-propelled grenades, as Sadr’s supporters and the army and men of the Hashed Al Shaabi, former Tehran-backed paramilitaries integrated into the Iraqi forces.

The UN mission in Iraq warned of “an extremely dangerous escalation” and called on all sides to “refrain from acts that could lead to an unstoppable chain of events”.

“The very survival of the state is at stake,” it warned.

On Tuesday morning, medics said 23 Sadr supporters had been killed and some 380 others injured, some with bullet wounds and others suffering tear gas inhalation.

A mass funeral was held Tuesday in the Shiite holy city of Najaf for some of the protesters killed in Baghdad.

Witnesses said earlier that Sadr loyalists and supporters of a rival Shiite bloc, the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, had exchanged fire.

The Framework condemned an “attack on state institutions”, urging the Sadrists to engage in dialogue.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhemi said “security or military forces, or armed men” were prohibited from opening fire on protesters.


The U.S. also urged calm amid the “disturbing” reports, while France called on “the parties to exercise the utmost restraint”.

Shortly after Sadr made his announcement to step down, his followers burst into the Republican Palace in Baghdad, where Cabinet meetings are usually held.

Sadr, a longtime player in the war-torn country’s political scene, though he himself has never directly been in government, announced he was quitting politics two days after he said “all parties” including his own should give up government positions in order to help resolve the political crisis.

His bloc emerged from last year’s election as the biggest in the legislature, with 73 seats, but short of a majority.

In June, his lawmakers quit, which led to the Coordination Framework becoming the largest bloc.

Iraq has been mired in political deadlock since legislative elections in October last year due to disagreement between Shiite factions over forming a coalition.

Sadr’s supporters have for weeks been staging a sit-in outside Iraq’s parliament, after storming the legislature’s interior on July 30, demanding fresh elections be held.

The Coordination Framework wants a new head of government to be appointed before any new polls are held.

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, commented on Al-Sadr’s call to stop the violence in Baghdad through Twitter on Tuesday.

“Muqtada Al-Sadr’s call to stop violence represents the highest levels of patriotism and keenness to preserve Iraqi blood,” Al-Kadhimi said via Twitter.

Al-Kadhimi also confirmed that Al-Sadr’s speech to the protesters holds everyone responsible morally and nationally to protect Iraq’s capabilities, stops political and security escalation, and initiates a quick dialogue to resolve crises.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) also valued the Al-sadr’s call to end the protests.

“UNAMI welcomes the recent moderate announcement by Muqtada Al-Sadr,” UNAMI mentioned through Facebook.

Al-Sadr’s announcement to withdraw from the political work took place earlier on Monday after the 72-hour deadline he gave last Friday to the Supreme Court to dissolve the parliament expired.

Four Rockets Hit Green Zone In Baghdad

The Iraqi Security Media Cell (ISMC) announced on Tuesday that the Green Zone in the capital, Baghdad, was hit by four missiles.

The ISMC mentioned in a statement that the Green Zone in Baghdad was bombed by four missiles that caused damages to buildings in the residential complex, according to the Iraqi News Agency (INA).

Katyusha rockets hit the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad which led to the activation of the C-RAM air defense system, a set of systems used to detect and destroy incoming rockets, artillery and mortar, intended to protect the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, according to Al-Arabiya News.

Footage published by social media activists showed the activation of C-RAM air defense system.

The Green Zone in central Baghdad witnessed a huge fire and smoke billows following strong explosions caused by mortar shells from an unknown source. Clashes escalated and footage showed armed men using RPGs and heavy machine guns.

Iraqi Soldier Killed In Green Zone Clashes

An Iraqi security source revealed on Monday that at least one Iraqi soldier was killed and others were wounded as a result of mortar shelling that took place in the Green Zone in Baghdad.

The Green Zone in central Baghdad witnessed a huge fire and smoke billows following strong explosions caused by mortar shells from an unknown source. Clashes escalated and footage showed armed men using RPGs and heavy machine guns.

Earlier reports said:

The Iraqi government imposed a curfew in all governorates starting from Monday until further notice, and the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers decided to suspend official working hours on Tuesday in all governorates.

The decision of Iraqi government was made after supporters of the Iraqi Sadrist movement’s leader, Muqtada Al-Sadr, broke into the Green Zone in the capital, Baghdad, after he announced he is quitting politics.

Muqtada Al-Sadr announced an open-ended hunger strike until the violence stops, according to the head of the Sadrist parliamentary bloc in Iraq, Hassan Al-Adhari.

U.S. Left With ‘Limited Options’ In Baghdad

A report in The National said:

Experts predict a dwindling American influence in shaping policy and politics in Iraq

Joyce Karam’s report from Washington on Aug 30, 2022 said:

President Joe Biden’s administration is finding its hands increasingly tied in Baghdad after violent clashes this week over the Iraqi government stalemate.

Various U.S. agencies are monitoring the violence as concerns grow of a return to internal armed conflict in Iraq, but there is no clear strategy from Washington on how to prevent it.

For nine months, the U.S. has called on Iraqi parties to break the political impasse, form a government and protect state institutions. But U.S. officials have refrained from direct engagement in negotiations over a cabinet formation.

Barbara Leaf, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, this month told Congress that Iraqi leaders had urged Washington to enter the fray “for us to sort things out, to put the thumb on the scale in this standoff over government formation”.

“That is not something we are going to do,” Ms Leaf said.

Iraqi PM Threatens To Quit If Political Conflict Continues

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Tuesday expressed his regret that the political conflict had reached the level of the use of weapons among Iraqi factions, warning that he would declare his post vacant if the dispute continued.

In a televised speech, al-Kadhimi said that he was overwhelmed with pain by the political conflict, “the Iraqi blood that was shed yesterday sends a warning to every Iraqi that today we must put weapons under the authority of the state.”

“I warn that if chaos, conflict, discord, and hostility continue and the voice of reason is not heard, I will take my moral and patriotic step to declare the position of (Prime Minister) vacant in due course… and holding them (conflicting parties) the responsibility before the Iraqis and before history,” al-Kadhimi said.

He said that Iraq has been bleeding for many years as thousands of Iraqis were killed, stressing that “every drop of blood is caused by chronic political failure.”

Earlier in the day, Iraqi President Barham Salih also said in a televised speech that “going to early elections under a national understanding represents a way out of the stifling crisis in the country instead of political dispute or clash.”

He also called on the Shiite Coordination Framework (CF), an umbrella group of Shiite parliamentary parties, to communicate with the leader of the Sadrist Movement, Moqtada al-Sadr, to come up with a political solution that addresses the issue of the new elections and the formation of a new government.

During the past months, the continued disputes among the Shiite parties have hampered the formation of a new Iraqi government, making it unable to elect a new president by a two-thirds majority of the 329-seat parliament under the constitution.

If elected, the president will appoint the prime minister nominated by the largest alliance in the parliament to form a new government that would rule the country for the next four years.

Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

War! What Is It Good For!?

The 1969 song sung by Edwin Starr, War, What Is It Good For, captured the dark and terrible essence of the USA's Vietnam debacle: War Edwin Starr (War) h'uhYeah!(What is…

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News