Iraqi security forces are spread heavily around Baghdad’s Green Zone, bracing for a new wave of protests tomorrow on the anniversary of Tishreen.
The movement started on Oct. 1, 2019, demanding political reform, the prime minister’s resignation, and an end to foreign interference in Iraqi matters. The broad protests in most southern cities, resulting in over 600 dead and thousands wounded, did lead to the resignation of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.
Followers of Shiite popular cleric Muqtada Sadr are also calling for joining Tishreen protests tomorrow. Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam faction has been preparing to protect the protesters in several Baghdad areas against the Popular Mobilization Units.
The PMU clashed with the Sadrists Aug 28-29 in the Green Zone, leaving about 70 dead and hundreds wounded.
Since the election in October 2021, Shiite political forces have divided into two main groups: the Sadrists and the Coordination Framework, which consists of mostly Shiite political wing of the PMU and other pro-Iran groups.
The Sadrists won 74 seats in the election, gaining the largest bloc. However, they were unable to form a government in alliance with the Sunni Taqqaddum party led by the parliament speaker Muhammad Halbousi and the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Masoud Barzani.
Sadr finally withdrew from the parliament, opening an opportunity for the Coordination Framework to form the government with the Sunnis and Kurds, the former allies of Sadr.
The new alliance was able to hold a parliament session two days ago, after a two-month delay due to the Sadrist protests. In this session, the new alliance voted again for Halbousi as speaker and elected Muhammad Mandalawi, an independent MP affiliated with the Coordination Framework as first speaker’s deputy. Sadrist followers protested, but they were not able to stop the process.
The next step is electing the president and the prime minister. The Coordination Framework nominated Muhammad Shia Sudani for the prime minister position, but Sadrists reject Sudani strongly.
In a TV interview, Halbousi supported Sudani, which indicates that Halbousi has moved completely into the new alliance with the Coordination Framework. Halbousi also confirmed that the relationship with the KDP is very good, meaning that KDP had joined the new alliance as well.
Al-Monitor learned that the Coordination Framework, with its new allies the KDP and Sunnis led by Halbousi, have been already negotiating to form new government and have made progress. The new alliance has also offered to include the Sadrists.
Qais Khazali, head of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, a political and military group withing the Coordination Framework, said in an interview late last week that they are ready to share half of Shiite positions in the new government with the Sadrists.
Sadr had not accepted yet. He is instead insisting on holding an early elections instead of forming a new government.
The preparation for tomorrow’s protests shows there is no agreement between the two groups.
Meanwhile, the prime minister Mustafa Kadhimi has called for third round of national dialogue between Iraqi political parties including the Sadrists to discuss ways to end the political deadlock with consensual agreement.
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