What happened in Iraq?
Moqtada-al Sadr, an influential Shia cleric and one of Iraq’s most powerful politicians announced retirement from political life. Soon after the announcement, his supporters stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone, the seat of power in Iraq, and occupied the government palace. In a rerun of scenes from the political crisis in Sri Lanka, al-Sadr’s supporters ran riot inside the government palace. Subsequent clashes with the Iraqi security forces killed dozens while hundreds were left wounded.
Who is Moqtada al-Sadr and Why Did He Quit Politics?
Moqtada-al Sadr claims to be the successor of Shia Cleric Mohammad Baqir-al Sadr, a revered cleric who traced his lineage to Muhammad. His rival, Kadim-al Haeri, claims the same.
Kadim-al Haeri announced his retirement from the Twelver Shiite community the past week and requested all of his supporters to pledge support to Ali Khamenei- Iran’s supreme leader- instead of Moqtada-al Sadr. This infuriated al-Sadr who announced his resignation within hours of the announcement.
What Moqtada al-Sadr’s Retirement Means for Iraqi Politics?
The 2021 Iraq parliamentary elections saw a contest between two influential shia parties- one led by Moqtada al-Sadr and the other by former Prime Minister Nouri a-Maliki. The latter is backed by Iran, a Shia majority country. In the election, al-Sadr’s party won the maximum number of seats but it was not enough to form a government. Al-Sadr refused to negotiate with his shiite rivals leading to a political impasse. Eventually, a caretaker government under al-Sadr’s trusted aide, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, was formed which continues to be in power.
As the Iran backed opposition in Iraq kept getting stronger, al-Sadr demanded fresh elections fearing a power takeover. His decision to quit politics has triggered a fresh wave of violence, chaos, and instability in Iraqi politics. If the violence continues, al-Sadr may arm twist the caretaker government to hold fresh elections and avoid a civil war in Iraq.