How Al-Sadr’s retirement from politics reflects on Iraq’s political spectrum

Moqtada Al-Sadr’s withdrawal from political life shook the Iraqi political spectrum, but his appeal to supporters to end their protest raised hopes of a de-escalation between the Sadrists and the Coordination Framework.

  • How Al-Sadr’s departure from politics affects Iraq’s political spectrum

Following the announcement by the powerful Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr to leave politics on August 29, his supporters stormed the presidential palace in the green zone, which then turned into clashes that rocked Baghdad for two days, killing 30 people and injuring more than 700 others, according to Iraqi medical sources on August 30.

Ruba Ali Al-Hassani, an Iraqi-Canadian and postdoctoral research associate at Lancaster University and the SEPAD project – an acronym for “Sectarianism, Proxies and De-sectarianization” – said the resignation of Moqtada Al-Sadr of political life is “performative”.

“It was his way of trying to wash his hands of the blame for what was going to happen next,” Al-Hassani said. Al Mayadein English in an interview. “His followers would not raise arms in battle without his consent or his orders.”

The clashes that rocked Baghdad came to a halt at noon on August 30 after Sadr made a speech at a press conference in which he apologized for the violence and told his supporters to leave the area green.

“The party is disciplined and obedient, and I wash my hands of those who do not withdraw from the parliament building within 60 minutes,” Sadr said in a televised speech broadcast by several outlets, including Al Mayadeen.

When asked if Al-Sadr’s call for an end to clashes was late, Al-Hassani replied “of course it was late, but it was also calculated and destined to arrive late. , to show his counterparts what he and his supporters are capable of”.

Al Sadr also thanked in his speech “the security forces who have adopted a neutral position with all parties”, and added that the Popular Mobilization Unit (PMF) which has integrated into the Iraqi security forces has nothing to do with what is happening.

‘Impunity’

Sadr’s decision to quit politics came after he reached a political stalemate with his rivals, a move that prompted his supporters to storm the presidential palace in the Green Zone, leading the military to quickly order a cover -fire on August 29.

When asked why Sadr did not call on his supporters to leave the Green Zone before his resignation to avoid violence, Al-Hassani replied “because his goal was for them [Sadrists] storming the parliament, like they did weeks ago, storming the Superior Council of the Judiciary, which they did last week, storming the republican palace, like they did it today [August 30].”

“It’s a scheme, and it’s not new. Its supporters have already stormed parliament several times,” Al-Hassani said. Al Mayadein English.

Sadr supporters stormed parliament in late July to prevent the Coordinating Framework from forming a new cabinet after the Sadrist bloc’s mass resignation from parliament in June.

“They enjoy a level of impunity that no one else has. The government dares not challenge them, because [caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa] Al-Kadhimi is a Sadrist ally, as he has repeatedly shown over the past two years,” she explained.

According France 24“Sadr says he simply wants a new election. The coordination cadre says he wants a government formed first – and then elections held, with conditions.”

The repercussions of resignation

Clashes between groups in Baghdad’s Green Zone and elsewhere prompted Iran to close its air and land borders with Iraq on August 29 before reopening them after Sadr’s speech. The United Arab Emirates has also suspended flights to and from Baghdad for security reasons.

“Sadr frequently uses his resignation as leverage on his counterparts to position himself and remind them that they cannot function politically without him,” Al-Hassani said. Al Mayadein English. “He has a large following and he has an unpredictable nature that puts his counterparts at a disadvantage.”

“If they can’t predict his next move, they can’t act on it. This time, however, his counterparts predicted that he would act impulsively, especially in response to Al-Haeri’s resignation, which came at a curious time. He also appears to have lost leverage after declaring at his press conference that “the killer and the slain will go to hell”, thus angering some of his own supporters. Perhaps the inevitable moment when Al-Sadr shot himself in the foot,” Al-Hassani said.

“Remember that he is just as guilty as all the other parties of corruption and violence. Reform should start within his party,” Al-Hassani explained.

However, after Sadr’s speech, his supporters began to leave the Green Zone immediately in response to his call, and the nationwide curfew that came into effect on August 29 was lifted by the government, raising hopes that he there could be an end to the violence.

“He [Al-Sadr] continues to be their leader, and his press conference today and the subsequent withdrawal of the Sadrists from the Green Zone is a prime example of this,” Al-Hassani said. “There is no Sadrist movement without Al-Sadr.

Iraq Guardian Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) welcomed Al-Sadr’s call on protesters to end protests in the Green Zone.

Al-Kadhimi also hailed Al-Sadr as a patriot for calling for an end to the bloodshed and said in a tweet this call imposed on all Iraqis a “moral duty” to engage in dialogue.

“The reason for this crisis”

Following the withdrawal of the Sadrists from the green zone, the coordination cadre called on its supporters to end their protests and leave Baghdad’s green zone.

“Return home safely and be fully prepared to answer the call of the nation,” Framework said in a message to supporters who began an “indefinite sit-in” on Aug. 12 in the Green Zone demanding the formation of a new government as soon as possible. as possible.

“The coordination cadre has the ability to form a government, remove the Sadrist movement from all its positions and not allow it to interfere in state affairs,” said Ghalib Aldaamy, a media professor at the Ahlul-Bayt University.

The Sadrists began an open demonstration first inside and then outside parliament to prevent the cadre from forming a government and demanding the dissolution of parliament and the holding of new elections.

“I don’t think the cadre is at all with the dissolution of parliament, and the reason for this crisis is the cadre’s reluctance to dissolve parliament,” Aldaamy said. Al Mayadein English.

Iraqi President Barham Salih said later on August 30that “the holding of new early elections according to a national agreement represents a way out of the suffocating crisis instead of bickering politically or confronting and fighting”.

“A Pressure Card”

“I don’t think Al-Sadr is seriously considering retiring from political life, because he made such a decision more than once and always returned to politics under the pretext of defending,” the Iraqi journalist said. Ahmad Adel. Al Mayadein English. “This withdrawal is nothing but a pressure card.”

Adel said that the politics of the Sadrist movement is “a unipolar politics, that it is linked to the person of Al-Sadr, and no one can take his place in managing the political work of the Sadrist movement”.

Adel pointed out that during the process of negotiating electoral alliances, Sadr changed committees more than once, but in the end, he is the one who makes the political decision through a tweet or a word away. of these committees.

The journalist believes that “the first person responsible for the clashes is the [caretaker] Prime Minister because he allowed these groups to enter the green zone and he was aware of all kinds of weapons they entered. »

“Those in charge of protecting the green zone are the special squad that protects government buildings, so these clashes took place between Saraya Al-Salam militias and official government forces, and today [August 31] funerals were held for the sons of the Iraqi army [killed] in Baghdad,” Adel said.

Backtrack

It is not known whether Sadr will reconsider his decision to leave politics, because Reuters reported: “he has often returned to political activity after similar announcements although the current stalemate in Iraq seems more difficult to resolve than previous periods of dysfunction.”

Dr. Ghalib Aldaamy, professor of media at Ahlul-Bayt University in Iraq, said that “the political process in Iraq is a process that is not governed by regulations, norms or foundations; it is based on improvisation rules.

“It’s hard to say that the Sadrist movement has withdrawn from political life,” Aldaamy said. Al Mayadein English.

“Sadr has stepped down in the sense that he will not interfere with the tendencies of his supporters in the protests, and this was confirmed on August 30 when he delivered a clear statement calling for the movement to stand down. definitely protests,” Aldaamy said.

“As long as Mr. Muqtada Al-Sadr is alive, the Sadrist movement will remain politically active.

“I think Al-Sadr will replace one of the people in the management of the most important files, but he will continue to intervene in critical circumstances that require him to send a message to the Sadrist movement,” Aldaamy added.

Al-Hassani, the postdoctoral research associate at Lancaster University, said Al Mayadein English that he [Sadr,] is the boy who cried wolf, because he quit at least 6 times in the past, and 2 times in the last year.”

“His resignation will not last long, and in the meantime, they will continue to mobilize, like last summer. He resigned in August 2021, yet his party continued to mobilize voters for the October elections and developed a mobile application for their registration. … and when he ‘returned’ to politics, everything was ready to win the elections,” Al-Hassani noted.

“The Iraqis are waiting for his return, but we don’t know exactly when.”

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