Aug 30, 2022 - World

Protesters withdraw from Baghdad's Green Zone after deadly clashes

Armed supporters of al-Sadr during clashes with security forces on Tuesday. Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty

After a second day of clashes with security forces, supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have mostly obeyed his instruction to withdraw from Baghdad's Green Zone, AP reports.

Why it matters: Al-Sadr's followers stormed a government palace on Monday following the cleric's announcement that he would be abandoning politics due to the country's political deadlock. The mass demonstrations and subsequent withdrawal were demonstrations of al-Sadr's ability to mobilize his supporters.

  • The violence on Monday and Tuesday left at least 30 people dead and over 400 wounded.
  • The government ordered a mandatory curfew, but rescinded it after the protesters — some of whom had brought tents and supplies to camp out in the government quarter — began to disperse.
  • Between the lines: This was not the first time al-Sadr announced he was leaving politics, and the announcement was viewed skeptically by many.

The big picture: Campaigning on a nationalist platform of reducing U.S. and Iranian influence in Iraq, al-Sadr's faction finished first in last October's election.

  • Ten months of tense deadlock have followed, with a rival Shiite bloc that includes allies of Iran preventing the Sadrists from forming a government.
  • Both camps, which command heavily armed militias, have organized protests in the capital Baghdad in recent weeks.
  • Monday's chaotic scenes led to fears of potential civil war, at least until al-Sadr gave an address on Tuesday. He told his supporters to withdraw, said "this is not a revolution," and apologized to the Iraqi people for the violence.

Flashback: Al-Sadr ordered his backers in parliament to resign in June in hopes of forcing a new election, but that gambit appeared to backfire as they were simply replaced.

What to watch: Iraq's Supreme Court is slated to hold a hearing this week to discuss the possibility of dissolving parliament to break the deadlock, but the country's constitution says parliament must vote to dissolve itself.

Go deeper: Fears of violent escalation in Iraq

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