Sadr Followers Enter Iraqi Parliament in Show of Force

Supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against corruption inside the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2022. (Reuters)
Supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against corruption inside the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2022. (Reuters)
TT

Sadr Followers Enter Iraqi Parliament in Show of Force

Supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against corruption inside the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2022. (Reuters)
Supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against corruption inside the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq July 27, 2022. (Reuters)

Hundreds of Iraqi protesters breached Baghdad’s parliament Wednesday chanting anti-Iran curses in a demonstration against a nominee for prime minister by Iran-backed parties.

The majority of the protesters were followers of influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The demonstrators, all of them men, were seen walking on tables of the parliament floor, leafing through folders, sitting in the chairs of lawmakers and waving Iraqi flags.

The incident raised the stakes in the political struggle for Iraq nearly ten months after federal elections.

No lawmakers were present. Only security forces were inside the building and they appeared to allow the protesters in with relative ease.

The demonstrators were protesting the recent selection of Mohammed al-Sudani as the official nominee of the Coordination Framework bloc, a coalition led by Iran-backed Shiite parties and their allies.

It was the largest protest since federal elections were held in October, and the second time Sadr has used his ability to mobilize masses to send a message to his political rivals this month. Earlier in July, thousands heeded his call for a mass prayer, an event many feared would devolve into destabilizing protests.

Hours after his followers occupied parliament, Sadr issued a statement on Twitter telling them their message had been received, and “to return safely to your homes,” signaling there would be no further escalation to the sit-in. Shortly after, protesters began making their way out of the parliament building with security forces supervising.

The incident, and Sadr's subsequent show of control over his followers, carried an implicit warning to the Framework party of a potential escalation to come if the government forms with Sudani at the helm.

Sadr's ability to mobilize and control his large grassroots following gives him powerful leverage over his rivals. In a similar fashion, his followers stormed the Green Zone in 2016 and entered the country’s parliament building to demand political reform.

Earlier in the day, demonstrators breached Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the parliament and other government buildings, as well as foreign embassies.

Protesters chanted curses against Iran and said, “Sudani, out!”

Riot police had attempted to repel the protesters using water cannons, but demonstrators scaled the cement barrier walls and pulled down slabs using ropes to enter the Green Zone.

The demonstrators walked down the zone's main thoroughfare with little resistance from security forces. One security personnel was seen handing a protester a water bottle.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi called for calm and restraint, and for protesters to “immediately withdraw” from the area.

Sadr recently stepped down from the political process despite having won the most seats in the October federal election. Protesters carried portraits of the cleric.

Sudani was selected by State of Law leader and former premier Nouri al-Maliki, a Sadr rival. Before Sudani can face parliament to be seated officially as premier-designate, parties must first select a president. Protesters also chanted: “Maliki, garbage!”

The Framework, in a statement, said they had known of “calls urging chaos, stirring up strife,” within the last 24 hours since nominating Sudani.

Sadr exited government formation talks after he was not able to corral enough lawmakers to get the majority required to elect Iraq’s next president.

By replacing his lawmakers, the Framework leader pushed ahead to form the next government. Many fear doing so also opens the doors to street protests organized by Sadr's large popular following and instability.



Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
TT

Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's Rapid Support Forces agreed with the United Nations on some steps to ease aid delivery in areas under its control, a member of the RSF told Reuters on Thursday.

The Sudanese army has not reached any understandings on aid delivers with the RSF, he added. It is unclear if these steps could be implemented without the army's participation.

Meanwhile, a key supply route into Sudan's Darfur region, deemed at risk of famine by a global monitor, has been cut off due to heavy rains, a World Food Program official told Reuters on Thursday.
The UN agency has described Sudan as the world's biggest hunger crisis, with the western Darfur region most at risk as Sudan's 15-month civil war that has displaced millions and sparked ethnic violence grinds on.
WFP's Country Director Eddie Rowe said thousands of tons of aid are stranded at the Tina crossing on the Chad border, prompting the body to reopen talks with the army-aligned government to open an alternative, all-weather crossing further south called Adre.
"You have these huge rivers. As I speak now, our convoy, which is supposed to move over 2000 metric tons is stranded," he told Reuters from Port Sudan. Asked on the status of the talks that resumed this week, he said: "It's 50/50.”
WFP is now seeking clearances to move a large 70-truck convoy via a little-used, over 1000 kilometer route from Port Sudan to Darfur which Rowe said will involve crossing the battle lines of both the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces and various militias.
He added that this mostly desert route has worked in the past but outside of the rainy season and that the last journey took weeks and was "fraught with a lot of challenges.”
In a separate interview, Mona Rishmawi, a member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan, told Reuters that she had met Darfur refugees in Chad who told her stories of escaping with virtually no water and eating grass along the route. "There's no doubt that people are starving," she said.