Iraq: Shia splits worsen after Green Zone storming

By Haydar Hadi

BAGHDAD (AA) – Political segregation has deepened inside Iraq’s Shia coalition after followers of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone on Saturday, an analyst has told Anadolu Agency.

Head of the Baghdad-based Iraqi Group for Strategic Research, Wathaq al-Hashimi, said the fate of the country could be jeopardized due the latest incident.

“Iraq now faces dire political risks. The upcoming period will be even more dangerous due to the ongoing chaos,” Hashimi warned, pointing out that both the U.S. and UN — along with other powers — had condemned the Sadrists’ occupation of the Iraqi parliament.

Iraq has been embroiled in a deepening political crisis since March, when Sadr loyalists began staging protests in the capital with a view to pressing Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to appoint a government of technocrats untainted by corruption or sectarian affiliations.

Last month, the Shia cleric’s supporters surrounded several government ministries in Baghdad to press their demands.

The Sadr movement drew reactions from the State of Law Coalition — linked to former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki — the Shia Islamic Supreme Council and the Badr Movement, which are part of the largest coalition in Iraq’s parliament.

“The Shia national coalition has been disbanded after reaching deadlock with al-Sadr,” Hashimi said.

Some Shia militia groups are also said to be irritated by the latest moves by the al-Sadr movement.

Saraya al-Khorasani, Iraqi Hezbollah, the Badr Brigades and Asaib Ahl al-Haq groups settled in some areas in Baghdad, claiming that the storm unleashed by the Sadr movement had endangered security in the capital.

Following the storming of parliament, the Saraya al-Khorasani group released a video purporting to show its militias touring Baghdad streets with guns.

These militias could confront the Sadr-linked, anti-Iran Saraya as-Salam [Peace Brigades] — which could ignite internal Shia domestic clashes.

“Iraq is facing unprecedented political disintegration,” Hashimi said.

Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone houses a number of vital government institutions — including parliament — and foreign diplomatic missions.

The Iraqi army responded to the escalation by declaring a state of high alert across the capital.

The demonstrators eventually vacated the parliament building and withdrew from the Green Zone the following day, citing the beginning of a major Shia holiday.

*Anadolu Agency correspondent Diyar Guldogan contributed to this story from Ankara.