Deadly clashes in Iraq put 'survival of the state' at risk

National dialogue is urged to resolve the country’s stagnant political process

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Iraq's chief diplomatic missions on Monday called on the country's leaders to engage in a national dialogue to end the political stalemate that has led to deadly clashes in Baghdad, killing at least eight.

The country's political crisis has been continuing for 10 months and involves Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, his rivals the Co-ordination Framework and the lack of the formation of a government.

The cleric says this process has been derailed by unconstitutional challenges by the rival bloc, after he won the plurality of seats in October's elections. Tensions, including political assassination attempts, have risen ever since.

Having already occupied the area around parliament, supporters of Mr Al Sadr stormed the republican palace in Baghdad's Green Zone after he announced his retirement from political life.

The palace is a key government site, where diplomatic meetings between Iraqi and international officials are held. The Green Zone also hosts foreign embassies, including the US embassy.

“The United States is concerned about escalating tensions and urges all parties to remain peaceful and refrain from acts that could lead to a cycle of violence,” a statement by the US embassy in Baghdad said.

"Now is the time for dialogue to resolve differences, not through confrontation," it said.

“The right to peaceful public protest is a fundamental element of all democracies but demonstrators must also respect the institutions and property of the Iraqi government, which belong to and serve the Iraqi people and should be allowed to function," it said.

A US official denied reports on Monday that Washington had evacuated its embassy in the capital.

“The reports are false,” a State Department spokesman told The National. “As a matter of policy, we do not comment on matters involving internal security.”

James Downer, Charge d’Affaires in the British embassy in Baghdad, said the UK was "deeply concerned” by the events, the reports of casualties in particular.

“We urge those on the streets to refrain from violence,” he said. Any protest must remain peaceful. Iraqis do not deserve to have their country dragged into violence.

“We call on all sides to prioritise dialogue in pursuit of a peaceful, legal and inclusive solution for the sake of the Iraqi people."

The UN office in Iraq, Unami, called on protesters to leave the Green Zone and vacate government buildings, urging "maximum restraint".

Calling the developments "an extremely dangerous escalation", Unami urged all sides to "refrain from acts that could lead to an unstoppable chain of events".

"The very survival of the state is at stake," it said.

Iran said late on Monday it had stopped all flights to Iraq and closed its borders with the neighbouring country.

Iraq has been ravaged by decades of conflict and endemic corruption.

Updated: August 30, 2022, 7:18 AM