Supporters of Iraqi Shia cleric storm palace amid news of resignation – National Pipa News

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A hugely influential Shia cleric announced on Monday that he would resign from Iraqi politics and his angry followers stormed the government palace in response, raising fears that violence could break out in a country already ravaged by the worst political crisis in Iraq. years.

The Iraqi government has been at a standstill since cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s party won most of its seats in October’s parliamentary elections, but not enough to secure a majority government. He refused to negotiate with Iran-backed Shia rivals to form a consensus government.

In July, his supporters broke into parliament to stop al-Sadr’s rivals from forming a government and have been holding a sit-in outside the building for more than four weeks. His bloc has also resigned from parliament.

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Iraqi protesters storm parliament for the second time this week

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This isn’t the first time al-Sadr, who has called for snap elections and the dissolution of parliament, has announced his retirement from politics – and many dismissed the latest move as another bluff to gain more leverage over his rivals amid a worsening stalemate. The cleric has used the tactic on previous occasions when political developments did not suit him.

But many are concerned that it is a risky move and concerned about the impact it will have on Iraq’s fragile political climate.

On Monday, hundreds pulled down the concrete barriers outside the Republican palace with ropes and broke through the palace gates. Many rushed to the opulent salons and marble halls of the palace, an important meeting place for Iraqi heads of state and foreign dignitaries.

Supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrate on Aug. 29 on the grounds of the government palace in Baghdad, Iraq. Al-Sadr, a hugely influential Shia cleric, announced his resignation from Iraqi politics and his angry followers stormed the government palace in response.

Hadi Mizban/AP

The Iraqi military quickly announced a citywide curfew on Monday in hopes of calming mounting tensions and avoiding the possibility of clashes. It called on the cleric’s supporters to immediately withdraw from the heavily fortified government zone and restrain themselves “to avoid clashes or the shedding of Iraqi blood,” a statement said.

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“The security forces reaffirm their responsibility to protect government agencies, international missions, public and private property,” the statement said.

The cleric announced his withdrawal from politics in a tweet and ordered the closure of his party offices. Religious and cultural institutions remain open.

Supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr attempt to remove concrete barriers in the green zone of Baghdad, Iraq, on Aug. 29.

Hadi Mizban/AP

Al-Sadr’s decision on Monday appeared to be in response to the retirement of Shia spiritual leader Ayatollah Kadhim al-Haeri, who considers many of al-Sadr’s supporters to be followers. The previous day, al-Haeri announced he would step down as a religious authority and called on his followers to throw their allegiances behind Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rather than the Shia spiritual center in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf.

The move was a blow to al-Sadr. In his statement, he said that al-Haeri’s resignation was “not of my own volition.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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