[pjw] NEWS: Iraqi protests lead to violent crackdown, 15 dead (AP 8/30)

Peace and Justice Works pjw at pjw.info
Tue Aug 30 12:50:48 EDT 2022

Iraq Affinity Group supporters

While the below article from the Associated Press notes that there are 
still people engaged in a sit-in _inside_ Iraq's Parliament building (4 
weeks on), the protests on the outside ended up costing 15 people their 
lives as riot police fired weapons after protestors tore down barricades. 
(I guess comparatively speaking the protestors in Portland in 2020 were 

I had heard about this on the news but then saw the Portland Mercury put 
it in their morning news summary, but their brief talked about the Sunnis 
and Shi'a, not realizing, I guess, that the fighting is among the Shi'a-- 
those who want to limit Iranian influence (Al Sadr and his followers) and 
those who welcome it.

The only mention of the United States is this:

"Under Saddam Hussein, the Shiites were oppressed until the U.S.-led 
invasion reversed the political order."

There's a quote from the UN saying that the Iraqi state could collapse if 
the political unrest doesn't end.

Let's hope for a peaceful resolution all the way around.
dan handelman
peace and justice works iraq affinity group

Clashes erupt after Iraqi Shiite cleric resigns, 15 dead

    BAGHDAD (AP) -- An influential Shiite cleric announced Monday that he
    would resign from Iraqi politics, prompting hundreds of his angry
    followers to storm the government palace and sparking clashes with
    security forces. At least 15 protesters were killed.

    Protesters loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr pulled down the cement
    barriers outside the government palace with ropes and breached the
    palace gates. Many rushed into the lavish salons and marbled halls of
    the palace, a key meeting place for Iraqi heads of state and foreign

    Iraq's military announced a nationwide curfew, and the caretaker
    premier suspended Cabinet sessions in response to the violence. Medical
    officials said dozens of protesters were wounded by gunfire and tear
    gas and physical altercations with riot police.

    As night fell, Saraya Salam, a militia aligned with al-Sadr clashed
    with the Popular Mobilization Forces security group. A small force from
    the special forces division and Iraqi Army's 9th Division also joined
    to contain the militants as the clashes continued for hours inside the
    Green Zone, the seat of Iraq's government.

    At least one soldier from the special forces division, which is
    responsible for security in the Green Zone, was killed. Many others,
    including a civilian woman, were wounded, two security officials said.
    Several mortar rounds were heard.

    The crackle of machine gun fire echoed throughout central Baghdad.

    The PMF is an umbrella group composed of state-sanctioned paramilitary
    groups, the most powerful of which are aligned with al-Sadr's rivals in
    the Iran-backed political camp.

    Security officials said mortars and rocket-propelled grenades were used
    in the clashes, a culmination of intractable political impasse between
    the rival camps.

    Iraq's government has been deadlocked since al-Sadr's party won the
    largest share of seats in October parliamentary elections but not
    enough to secure a majority government. His refusal to negotiate with
    his Iran-backed Shiite rivals and subsequent exit from the talks has
    catapulted the country into political uncertainty and volatility amid
    intensifying intra-Shiite wrangling.

    Iraq's majority Muslim population is split into two sects, Shiites and
    Sunnis. Under Saddam Hussein, the Shiites were oppressed until the
    U.S.-led invasion reversed the political order. Now the Shiites are
    fighting among themselves, with the dispute centering around power and
    state resources but also influence over the Shiite street.

    To further his political interests, al-Sadr has wrapped his rhetoric
    with a nationalist and reform agenda that resonates powerfully among
    his broad grassroots base of supporters who hail from Iraq's poorest
    sectors of society and have historically been shut out from the
    political system.

    Many were first followers of his father, a revered figure in Shiite
    Islam. They are calling for the dissolution of parliament and early
    elections without the participation of Iran-backed Shiite groups, which
    they see as responsible for the status quo.

    During Monday's clashes, Saraya Salam, a militia aligned with al-Sadr
    gathered in the capital's Tahrir Square to "protect" protesters, one of
    its commanders said.

    A senior medical official confirmed at least 15 protesters were killed
    by gunfire.

    Iraq's caretaker premier said he would open an investigation into the
    shootings and said the use of live ammunition against protesters was

    Protests also broke out in the Shiite-majority southern provinces, with
    al-Sadr's supporters burning tires and blocking roads in the oil-rich
    province of Basra and hundreds demonstrating outside the governorate
    building in Missan.

    Iran considers intra-Shiite disharmony as a threat to its influence in
    Iraq and has repeatedly attempted to broker dialogue with al-Sadr.

    In July, Al-Sadr's supporters broke into the parliament to deter his
    rivals in the Coordination Framework, an alliance of mostly
    Iran-aligned Shiite parties, from forming a government. Hundreds have
    been staging a sit-in outside the building for over four weeks. His
    bloc has also resigned from parliament. The Framework is led by
    al-Sadr's chief nemesis, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

    This is not the first time al-Sadr, who has called for early elections
    and the dissolution of parliament, has announced his retirement from
    politics -- and many dismissed Monday's move as another bluff to gain
    greater leverage against his rivals amid a worsening stalemate. The
    cleric has used the tactic on previous occasions when political
    developments did not go his way.

    But many are concerned that it's a risky gambit and are worried how it
    will affect Iraq's fragile political climate. By stepping out of the
    political process, al-Sadr is giving his followers, most
    disenfranchised from the political system, the green light to act as
    they see fit.

    Al-Sadr also commands a militia and maintains a great degree of
    influence within Iraq's state institutions through the appointments of
    key civil servant positions. His Iran-backed rivals also have militia

    Iraq's military swiftly called on the cleric's supporters to withdraw
    immediately from the heavily fortified government zone and to practice
    self-restraint "to prevent clashes or the spilling of Iraqi blood,"
    according to a statement.

    "The security forces affirm their responsibility to protect government
    institutions, international missions, public and private properties,"
    the statement said.

    Iraq's caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi also demanded that
    al-Sadr call on his followers to withdraw from government institutions.

    The U.N. mission in Iraq said Monday's protests were an "extremely
    dangerous escalation" and called on demonstrators to vacate all
    government buildings to allow the caretaker government to continue
    running the state.

    It urged all to remain peaceful and "refrain from acts that could lead
    to an unstoppable chain of events."

    "The very survival of the state is at stake," the statement said.

    Al-Sadr announced his withdrawal from politics in a tweet, and ordered
    the closure of his party offices. Religious and cultural institutions
    will remain open, it said.

    The true motivations behind al-Sadr's announcement appeared to be a
    reaction to the retirement of Shiite spiritual leader Ayatollah Kadhim
    al-Haeri, who counts many of al-Sadr's supporters as followers.

    In a surprise announcement Sunday, al-Haeri said he would be stepping
    down as a religious authority for health reasons and called on his
    followers to throw their allegiance behind Iran's Ayatollah Ali
    Khamenei, rather than the Shiite spiritual center in Iraq's holy city
    of Najaf.

    The move was a blow to al-Sadr, who despite harboring ambitions to be a
    religious authority lacks the scholarly credentials to be an ayatollah.
    Al-Haeri, who resides in the Iranian holy city of Qom, once provided
    him with the legitimacy he lacked by designating al-Sadr as his
    representative in Iraq. He cut ties shortly after with the cleric, but
    continued to enjoy the support of his followers.

    By calling on his followers to side with Khamenei, al-Haeri brought on
    a crisis of legitimacy for al-Sadr.

    In his tweet, al-Sadr said al-Haeri's stepping down "was not out of his
    own volition."

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