In the hours that followed, Iraq’s political divisions deepened with multiple rocket attacks and gun battles in the once-buried Green Zone and other cities across the country. Health officials said at least 34 people had died.
“I apologize to the people of Iraq,” the chairman said in a televised address Tuesday afternoon. “I was hoping for a peaceful demonstration, not with mortars and guns. I don’t want such a revolution.”
A few minutes after the end of his speech, his supporters, some with grenades or other weapons in their hands, started walking away from the Green Zone. Iraqi authorities announced the lifting of the city’s curfew on Monday and thanked interim Prime Minister Sadr for his “patriotism”.
The violence, Iraq’s deadliest in years, has failed to resolve a political conflict since last year that has left the country without a government and its citizens bereft of basic services, and between Sadr’s followers and rival Shiite factions. Supported by Iran.
Sajad Jiyad, a fellow at the Asr Foundation in New York who is currently in Baghdad, said the violence was largely a “squabble” between powerful Shiite militias fighting for position. But “for the average Iraqi, this shows how far these groups are willing to go.” They are ready to fight each other for power and position.
“It’s a dangerous game,” he said. “It could get out of hand.”
The political conflict began in October when Sadr’s bloc won the most seats in parliament, but failed to form a government, trying to oust its Shiite rivals. After months of political paralysis, the Speaker announced that his parliamentary candidates would resign from the legislature and then sent his supporters to occupy the parliament.
A rival Shiite political group dominated by former prime minister Maliki has accused Sadr of attempting a “coup” and staged its own demonstrations during the summer unrest.
Chairman, A populist with hundreds of thousands of followers who opposes both US and Iranian influence in Iraqdemanded the holding of early elections, as well as the removal from the government of political figures who served after the 2003 US-led invasion.
“At the heart of it is a power struggle,” Jiyad said. The chairman believes in him [bloc] He is the only legitimate representative of Iraqi Shiites, so that he does not have to share power with anyone, at least from the Shiite community.” On the other side is a powerful Shiite bloc called the Coordination Framework, which says that “the president is very problematic and he is not representative of the Iraqi Shiites and should not be attacked.”
The chairman’s retirement – one of at least half a dozen similar announcements he made over the years – comes after a political stalemate, while also being “backed into a corner” after a statement critical of him on Monday. the cleric was considered a supporter of the Sadr family.
The green light for Sadr’s supporters, as well as a message to other Iraqi political groups, Jihad said: “It’s the level of violence he’s trying to prevent and how powerful his group is. He covers up some of this anger.” He noted that Sadrs waited a full day before calling his supporters to withdraw.
As his supporters retreated from the Green Zone on Tuesday with a wide range of weapons, they left behind broken blast walls and many spent bullets, which were promptly collected by children to sell for scrap.
“I personally didn’t want to retreat,” said Mouamle Hassan, 21, who left the area with a rifle. “We lost our martyrs, but we will always obey the Chairman.” According to him, the cleric’s demands – the dissolution of parliament and early elections – now carry more weight. “Now those corrupt militias have seen what we are capable of,” he said, referring to Sadr’s opponents.
Fahim reported from Istanbul.