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‘Sadr will not allow a new government to be established by the Coordination Framework at any cost'

Updated: Jan 21

Analysis of Iraq’s current situation, and interviews with two Iraqis close to the Sadrist movement

Last week, Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on his followers and supporters to withdraw after heavy clashes between the Coordination Framework (ie Iran-aligned) militias and Sadr elements and followers. Many commentators in Iraq contended that the worst had been resolved. The reality, however, is likely to be that this is just the beginning. Sadr’s call for withdrawal from the ground is likely to be only a temporary step. He and his supporters are set to return to the streets, as aggressive as ever – as can be seen in the interviews with Sadrists below.

Iraq is likely to see additional clashes and escalation in the coming months, and this is likely eventually to lead to bloodshed. Sadr’s demands are difficult for the (Iran-linked) Coordination Framework to satisfy, since he is demanding the removal of all the ‘corrupt’ figures who were in the previous Iraqi government.

The clashes in Baghdad came after Sadr announced his withdrawal from political life. Sadr made this decision after months of negotiations for reconciliation and dialogue with other parties, most importantly the Coordination Framework, on such issues as fighting corruption, and reforming the high judicial court. The negotiations came to nothing, with a central stumbling block being the Coordination Framework’s insistence on acceptance of their candidate for prime minister.

Sadr’s ‘withdrawal’ from political life should not be taken seriously. It is the seventh time that he has made such an announcement.

The clashes turned bloody after Sadr followers entered the Presidents Palace after breaking in to the Green Zone. His followers occupied the place and were not willing to leave it. Iraqi special forces were in control of the palace. They began using force to remove the Sadrists, without initial success.

Sadr’s ‘withdrawal’ from political life should not be taken seriously. It is the seventh time that he has made such an announcement.

According to the Sadrists, live ammunition was fired by men with black uniforms without insignia and covered faces. After they opened fire, two demonstrators were killed. Sadrists then opened fire against these unidentified elements. They captured one of these elements, who was discovered, via his ID, to be linked to Iran. Sadrist witnesses claim to have seen also Coordination Framework linked militiamen opening fire against them.

Sadrists also sought to escalate in Basra, Misyan, and Baghdad, but without success.

Iraqi Hizbullah, Asaib, Badr, and other militias linked to Hashd Al-Shaabi intelligence were tracking Sadr’s calls and movements, according to Iraqi sources.

The situation in Iraq is likely to remain fragile, with the possibility of renewed clashes. Sadr is likely to not allow a government to be formed, and he will remain in opposition against Iran’s proxy militias.

Former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki is the main player against Sadr and his allies.

Sadr’s break with the Coordination Framework is deep, and goes back many years. Sadr recently told the Iranians publicly to ‘rein in their camel in Iraq – or regret it.’ On a number of occasions in recent months, Iran has sought to contact Sadr, via QF commander Esmail Ghaani. But the latter was received only once. Recently, Sadr also said that it is ‘Iraq’s business what Iran is doing here.’ Sadr’s attitudes represent much of Iraqi society, which has become more anti-Iranian than at any time before, and it is clear that he is seeking to capitalize on this sentiment.

Many Iraqis now believe in such options as that Iraq should be divided into a three part federal system, or that the armed forces should be used to remove the current politics parties and leaders.

Qasim Abdul Karim, a prominent political activist and Journalist from the Sadr movement

In terms of the next steps, we as Sadrists are committed to Sadr’s decision. Sadr made the decision to withdraw from the Green Zone, where we lost 51 demonstrators. We are expecting escalation after the Al-Arbaeen visit period (the 40 day period, currently under way, in which Shia Muslims make pilgrimages to Karbala, the site of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein - ed).

The Parliament session will not happen, and it's impossible to be made any time in the future. The Kurds haven’t agreed on a candidate for the presidency and the Sunnis have not yet sorted out their position vis a vis the Coordination Framework. A government without Sadr cannot be made, and the Sadr movement has made its conditions clear for any new government. Sadr has said in his Tweets that he won’t participate in any government based on sharing and bargaining. He also cut all negotiation and dialogue with the Coordination Framework and there is no point in any negotiations with them. Sadr has made his final and last decision of cutting all negations with the CF, and he is demanding early elections and the dissolving of parliament.

Sadr insists on the continuation of his reform project, and he has mobilized his followers, and Iraq does not give up on the reform project. Sadr will be making this reform step by step, and using the power on the street to achieve this project. He will be taking a popular opposition position with the people's support, showing that his demands are the peoples’ demands.

Sadr will be depending on mobilized crowds and demonstrations, and there are other players beside the Sadr movement, such as the Tishreen (October) movement, that are also looking for the reform and resolution. (i.e the political movement associated with the mass popular protests of 2019-20)

Sadr leaves the decision to the people in the street and independent people against the moves of the CF. Sadr has promised a mass demonstration after the Al-Arbaeen, against the Coordination Framework.

Ghleeb Al-Daami , a political analyst close to the Sadr movement

Sadr has no option, other than to rely on his mobilized supporters. There is no other option! He also has support from his partners such as the Kurdish KDP and Sunni Siyada (Halbousi), they are still maintaining their support for Sadr via their reaction to the situation. Sadr also has the support of the international community, because they don't want any government to be made against the will of the people of Iraq.

In addition, the Tishreen movement has also recently decided to join with Sadr’s path. Tishreen made a mistake when they decided not to participate in the elections. So, the Coordination Framework can’t make a new government without pro reform parties including the Sadr movement, and other new movements and parties. All this makes the CF think again before further steps towards trying to form a new government, even if they may have regional support (ie from Iran – ed).

Sadr’s withdrawal from politics will be for a period of time, as circumstances require. Sadr is anyway still involved in politics through his Twitter activity and conferences, and he is still playing a significant role in the political field.

I believe creating a new government will be very hard in light of all these initiatives and developments, and as long as Sadr is not a part of the game.

The Green zone clashes were a reflection of the fragile situation, and I believe such clashes will continue in a different time and place. Everyone became very greedy for blood and there is nothing that will satisfy them other than the blood of Iraqi youth. Iraq’s current situation is really fragile, and I am afraid we will see further more escalations beyond what we have seen yet.

I believe creating a new government will be very hard in light of all these initiatives and developments, and as long as Sadr is not a part of the game.

We are expecting escalations from militias groups, and it is the government’s responsibility to take action against this, otherwise we will lose the sovereignty of our country.

Iraq’s circumstances are complicated and it's barely possible to solve them in a democratic way. Iraq is controlled by tribe, society, ethnic group, nationality, and cultural and religious minorities, and it takes time for all this to accept the concept of democracy. For example, if a party includes a Kurdish candidate among them in cities in the center and south, people wont vote for this person because he is a Kurd. Iraq society is very complicated now.

We may see revolution by the people, as the politicians have failed in all aspects and they didn't provide any services to Iraq.

Wael Al-Rikabi, deputy director, national center for journalism and member of State of Law Coalition.

A new government must be formed through agreement between all parties. Especially, after the final decision made by the federal court rejecting the dissolving of parliament. It's now mandatory and up to all parliament members. They are representing the people and they can resolve the issues. All parliament members should attend the parliament, so they can choose the President of Iraq with other political parties. The current government is a caretaker government and they have limited authorities and power. There is agreement on not dissolving parliament, but going to early elections. Therefore, there cannot be any election without a new government with full authority as stated in the constitution. The current government must be removed. I believe all are agreed on that but currently as we can see, everyone is busy with the ‘Arbaeen’ of Imam Hussain (the Arbaeen period, marked by Shia Muslims, is due to end on September 17th – ed). Even Masoud Barzani has come out in favor of early elections as a way out of the current situation. So, everyone agrees.

There was a national dialogue initiative by the caretaker government between Iraqi parties, attended by all except Sadr’s movement. The issue of changing the high commission for the elections is under discussion. The situation concerns the whole nation, not this or that ethnic minority. No one can be excluded from participating in the new government because it won't be successful if one group is excluded from the political field and the government; therefore, there should be a parliament gathering to prepare for early elections as laid out in the constitution.

In order to resolve the current struggles, Sadr should rescind his decision to withdraw from political life. We do respect that he made this decision from a religious perspective and as a protector of the state. We need a decision from Sadr, like the one he made during the recent clashes inside the Green Zone to his followers (ie Sadr’s instruction to his followers to end the sit in at the Green Zone – ed). He also asked them noty to make any further demonstrations, even peaceful ones.

The ‘Tishreen’ demonstrations will continue, as they have every right to do, based on the constitution, as is the same for all Iraqis. I believe we can create a new government if political movement continues between parties via dialogue and agreement. For example, if the Kurds can agree on a single nominee for the presidency, that will help a new government to be established soon and bring peace and security. A new government will then put pressure on everyone to hold an early election.

The Coordination Framework will not expect Kadhimi (current prime minister Mustafa Kadhimi) to lead the new government, and a second period of incumbency for Kadhimi is unconstitutional. What has Kadhimi offered in the economic, security, political and society fields! We were lucky that oil prices rose.

The Coordination Framework is not controlling the current government, so if any demonstration comes out in the future it will be against the Kadhimi government, not the Coordination Framework. Kadhimi is not representing the Coordination Framework and we are not willing to re-elect him. So, it will not make sense if there are demonstrations against the Coordination Frame as there is no new government yet.

The Tishreen groups are not united, and they are all divided since they ended their demonstrations. Tishreen has proposed terms to Sadr in order to participate in demonstrations with the Sadrists.

The Coordination Framework has a political status and a position in favor of including all - including the Sadr movement, and they are on the same page together. The Coordination Framework wants calm, not escalations, but they are determined to change the current situation based on a constitutional way, not personal mood. That's the difference between the Coordination Framework and the Sadr movement.

I believe we have solved 70% of the issues by now, and we are in the final phase of these political struggles. We cannot accuse anyone of corruption or criminality without evidence, the courts and the law will decide on such matters. We shouldn't exclude anyone because there is information claiming corruption, before this is proved.

We should be implementing democracy by accepting each other through dialogue and elections and the peaceful handover of power. We also should respect the courts, the constitution, and parliament, and this is a principle for the Coordination Framework. We opened our door to Sadr by requesting for dialogue on the same table to come out agreement by rejecting and not expecting which we don't wish it at all.

I do believe the new government will be established by the Coordination Framework, with some Sadrist elements in some ministries. The new government will serve for only one year, as preparations are made for early elections.

Changes cannot be made by threats or by using guns against each other. It's people's responsibilities to participate in elections and demonstrations if they want change. This is a patriotic duty and they then have to take their part in that change.

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