Turmoil in Baghdad as rockets hit Green Zone, Antichrist’s men take to streets in ‘warning’ to rivals

Sadrist demonstrators clash with security force during an anti-government protest, after a parliament session, in Baghdad, Iraq September 28, 2022. (Reuters)

Turmoil in Baghdad as rockets hit Green Zone, Sadrists take to streets in ‘warning’ to rivals

Analysts say the virulent reactions of the Sadrist movement were predictable as it was unlikely that Sadr would accept a political process that could lead to his political isolation.

Thursday 29/09/2022

Sadrist demonstrators clash with security force during an anti-government protest, after a parliament session, in Baghdad, Iraq September 28, 2022. (Reuters)

BAGHDAD, Iraq-

Four rockets fired from eastern Baghdad on Thursday landed around the Iraqi capital’s Green Zone, home to government buildings and foreign missions, police said, as political unrest intensified and Sadrists took part in violent demonstrations in a “warning” to rivals.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the rocket strikes and no claim of responsibility. Several Shia militant groups have offices and supporters in eastern Baghdad.

A similar rocket attack on Wednesday wounded seven members of the Iraqi security forces in the Green Zone and appeared to add a new dimension to a contest among feuding politicians.

Rocket strikes on the Green Zone have been regular in recent years but they are usually directed at Western targets by Iran-backed militia groups.

The Sadrist movement quickly distanced itself from the rocket attacks and Saleh Muhammad al-Iraqi, who is known on social media as “Sadr’s minister,” accused hostile parties which want to undermine Sadrist “reform” moves of being behind the strikes.

He said on Twitter, “We categorically reject the use of violence and weapons carried out by unknown parties, by bombing the Green Zone, as they seek to cause sedition in our beloved Iraq.”

The bombings coincided with hundreds of supporters of the movement swarming central Baghdad. “Sadr’s minister” had threatened earlier on Wednesday to take to the streets if the political forces attempted to impose what he called a “corruption deal.”

Analysts believe that the warnings from Sadr’s informal spokesman are directed mainly at “the State Administration Coalition” project, which brings together the Coordination Framework, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Sunni Sovereignty Coalition and the Christian Babylon bloc.

This coalition, currently being forged, aims to overcome the current political impasse and complete the constitutionally ordained tasks of electing the president of the republic and forming a new government, but the Sadrist movement believes that this coalition aims primarily to sideline it from the political scene.

Analysts say the virulent reactions of the Sadrist movement were predictable as it was unlikely that Sadr would accept a political process that could lead to his political isolation.

They add that Sadr’s street escalation on Wednesday should be seen as a warning as political events unfold.

A boy poses for a picture amid clashes between supporters of Moqtada Sadr and Iraqi security forces in Tahrir Square in the centre of Iraq's capital Baghdad September 28, 2022. (AFP)

A boy poses for a picture amid clashes between supporters of Moqtada Sadr and Iraqi security forces in Tahrir Square in the centre of Iraq’s capital Baghdad September 28, 2022. (AFP)

Three Katyusha rockets landed in the fortified zone on Wednesday while Iraq’s MPs voted to reject the resignation of Halbousi.

The office of caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said in a statement that security forces were pursuing the assailants who fired the rockets and asked protesters to remain peaceful.

Security forces blocked bridges to the central Green Zone and imposed a curfew on buses, motorcycles and trucks.

Another rocket later fell near the Green Zone, where parliament and many government offices and foreign embassies are located, security sources said. There were no casualties.

Despite the tight restrictions, dozens of supporters of the populist Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gathered in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, which lies outside the Green Zone, to protest against the parliamentary session.

Witnesses said around a dozen were seen throwing stones at security forces.

Sadr emerged as the biggest winner from an election last October but ordered his parliamentarians to withdraw after failing to form a coalition government after months of political deadlock. The Sadrists have called for fresh elections.

Halbousi was originally elected speaker by parliamentarians backed by Sadr. Al-Sadr’s 73 lawmakers resigned last June to protest the political deadlock.

Halbousi, a Sunni Muslim politician who originally backed Sadr’s efforts, has broken rank with him, arguing that efforts should continue to form a government with other factions.

Earlier this year Halbousi’s Taqaddum party and other Sunni Muslim Arab and Kurdish factions supported Sadr’s efforts to form a government that would exclude rival Iran-backed Shia Muslim groups.

However, they did not follow suit when Sadr withdrew from parliament and have instead considered entering a ruling alliance with the Iran-backed parties, according to officials on all sides of the political divide.

A large majority of parliamentarians voted on Wednesday rejecting Halbousi’s resignation, effectively endorsing his continuation in office.

The leader of a militia loyal to Sadr censured Wednesday’s rocket attacks “We condemn and denounce the shelling of the Green Zone today and we stress the constitutional right to protest,” Peace Brigades commander Abu Mustafa al-Hamidawi said.

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