Let’s Tune In: Waves of Protests in Iraq

Let’s Tune In: Waves of Protests in Iraq

Giuseppe Maria Bartalotta
Latest posts by Giuseppe Maria Bartalotta (see all)

Let’s Tune In is a weekly column produced by our Newsroom team to highlight one story that you might have missed from last week. You can read more about our weekly content on the Newsroom page.

On Saturday there was the umpteenth protest against the Iraqi Parliament conducted by the supporters of Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. During the protest, at least 125 people were injured and this was the second protest of the week with the first on Wednesday. The protest on Saturday broke again the high-security Green Zone in Baghdad and continued inside the Parliament due to the will to stop the election of an alleged Pro-Iran Prime Minister who is personified by Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani.

The Iraqi crisis started in October 2021, after the political election, which did not give a clear majority to the executive and so on the country. It is important to highlight that the voters were around 44% of the population and it was the lowest turnout since the US intervention in Iraq. The election’s result gave away important answers. The winner of the election was Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr with his movement Sadrist Movement who gained 73 of the 329 seats. Other parties like the Al-Fatah alliance fell to 17 seats, and the Progress Party led by Mohammed al-Halbousi, a Sunni, took 37 seats. the Former Prime Minister’s party, Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law took 33 seats. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) captured 31 seats, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) received 18.

On 25th July 2022, after the political deathlock, It seemed like Iraq could live differently due to the nomination of Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani but this decision led to the first protest the day after and another on Saturday. However, he has several experience in the political field as Minister of Human Rights, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, as well as other roles. What people do not accept is his connections with Iran, connections that seem confirmed by the Iran-backed groups and militias, welcoming Sudani’s nomination in separate statements or tweets.

Demonstrators occupied the parliament floor and raised the Iraqi flag and portraits of al-Sadr, who has ordered his followers to stage a sit-in in the Green Zone. The protests are a pressure tactic used by him to derail government formation efforts lead by his political rivals in the Coalition Framework, an alliance of Shiite parties backed by Iran. What Muqtada al-Sadr is fighting for is to stop the Iranian and the US influence over Iraq’s internal affairs and his followers are fervently fighting alongside him.

Iraq’s current Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi is known as the signatory of the agreement with the US that consisted on the withdrawal of the US armies from the country by the end of 2021, to protect security forces and official institutions protect official institutions.

What the world is looking at, is a huge political instability led by weak institutions and the strongest party of the parliament which is not enough big to rule the country. This is crucial because it cannot rule alone and it does not want coalitions. This topic is becoming a major source of instability due to the behavior of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. His supporters have been using violence for a week now and do not seem to step back. At the moment in Iraq, there is a Prime Minister who has not been elected during the last elections, a security force that is not able to assist and stop protesters, and failed communication between institutions that does not guarantee the correct functioning of democratic processes.

Muqtada al-Sadr’s party demonstrates that it does not want the end of democracy. Protesters have not seized the Parliament. However, what it is doing is unlawful because it interferes with Iraqi’s democratic rules, rules that the parties in the system should observe. This party is dangerous to Iraq’s democracy. The world knows it and must assess the situation before it goes out of hand.

What should the International Community do about Iraq? Will Muqtada al-Sadr accept to form a coalition?

Suggested readings:

Iraq: Muqtada al-Sadr supporters storm parliament again – BBC News

Iraqi protesters storm parliament for second time in a week | News | Al Jazeera

Iraqi protesters breach parliament building in Baghdad – World News (hurriyetdailynews.com)

Iraq’s Political Shift | Middle East Institute (mei.edu)

Iraqi protesters storm the parliament in Baghdad’s Green Zone | Protests News | Al Jazeera

Iraq announces final results of October parliament election | Elections News | Al Jazeera

2021–2022 Iraqi political crisis – Wikipedia

Mohammed Shia al-Sudani nominated for Iraqi premiership – Al-Monitor: Independent, trusted coverage of the Middle East

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Let’s Tune In: Wave…

by Giuseppe Maria Bartalotta time to read: 3 min