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Menace of protests, violent escalation stirs panic in Iraq

Threat of protests, violent escalation stirs panic in Iraq


BAGHDAD — Iraqi safety forces erected concrete obstacles on Monday forward of counter-protests deliberate by Shiite political rivals towards an influential cleric whose followers have staged a parliament sit-in for a 3rd day.

Many feared that dueling protests may escalate tensions.

Requires the counter-protest got here from a political alliance of Iran-backed teams against the open-ended sit-in inside Iraq’s parliament by followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The prospect of opposing demonstrations stirred fears of a deepening political disaster. Iraq’s political sphere has been a vacuum since federal elections in October.

The counter-protest was referred to as for by the Coordination Framework, an alliance lead by Shiite events near Iran, and is slated to happen Monday afternoon. The alliance instructed individuals to assemble round Baghdad’s July 14th Bridge, which ends up in the closely fortified Inexperienced Zone the place the parliament is housed.

The alliance forbade individuals from coming into the zone, directing them to “look forward to directions.” That signaled to protesters to not conflict with al-Sadr’s followers, however opened the potential for drawn-out demonstrations in a standoff towards al-Sadr.

The alliance additionally referred to as for its supporters to respect the state safety forces and carry Iraqi flags. Safety forces erected concrete partitions to behave as a buffer, blockading the passage from the bridge to the Inexperienced Zone.

The announcement got here after al-Sadr issued a press release late Sunday calling for “revolution” and to vary the political system and the structure and abolish his rivals whereas encouraging Iraqi tribes to hitch him. His opponents perceived that message as a name to a coup.

Fractures appeared throughout the management of the Framework, with some members unwilling to participate and calling for restraint. Others pushed for escalation.

Al-Sadr’s chief rival, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the top of the Framework alliance, and Shiite chief Qais al-Khazali, look like main the push for protests. In the meantime, Fatah Alliance head Hadi al-Ameri is urging management and moderation, two Shiite political officers mentioned. They spoke on situation of anonymity in step with laws.

Kataib Hezbollah, one other Iran-backed militia group, has additionally advised it is not going to take part.

If the protests escalate, it will be the closest followers of al-Sadr and al-Maliki will come to a confrontation since 2008, when the previous prime minister lead Iraq’s military to drive the cleric’s earlier militia, the Mahdi Military, out of the southern metropolis of Basra.

The 2 males, each highly effective in their very own proper, have been bitter enemies ever since.

Al-Sadr’s loyalists continued their sit-in for a 3rd day. Hundreds amongst them stormed the parliament on Saturday, for the second time within the span of every week. This time, they didn’t disperse peacefully.

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