Iraq's Moqtada Al Sadr praised for calls to de-escalate violence after deadly clashes

Politicians in Baghdad and the UN welcome cleric's statement after at least are 30 killed

Moqtada Al Sadr gives a speech criticising violence on the streets of Baghdad from his home in Najaf. AP
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Iraqi leaders and international officials have commended cleric Moqtada Al Sadr's calls to his supporters to withdraw from the streets and put an end to the deadly clashes that have paralysed Iraq.

Hundreds of Mr Al Sadr’s supporters stormed the Republican Palace on Monday, where they traded heavy fire with security forces in an escalation of a months-long political crisis gripping the nation.

At least 30 people were killed overnight in clashes and dozens more injured, according to health authorities.

The unrest began after Mr Al Sadr said he would quit politics, although he has never been directly in government but has been a key player in the country's political scene.

He made the announcement two days after he said “all parties” including his own should give up government positions to help resolve the political crisis.

His followers immediately stormed Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, which is the home to Iraqi government offices and foreign embassies.

“I apologise to the Iraqi people, the only ones affected by the events,” Mr Al Sadr told reporters from his base in the central Iraqi city of Najaf.

“The spilling of Iraqi blood is forbidden. This is not a peaceful uprising (any more) because it has lost its peaceful character.”

The cleric and political leader gave his followers 60 minutes to leave the area and dismantle the sit-in tents in the capital, threatening to “disavow” those who remained.

Mr Al Sadr said he was disappointed and “saddened” by what had happened to the country.

Shortly after his speech, Sadrists started leaving the Green Zone and traffic starting to flow into streets that were blocked overnight, as security forces announced they were lifting the curfew that was imposed yesterday across the country.

“His Eminence Moqtada Al Sadr’s call to stop violence is the epitome of patriotism and respect to the sanctity of Iraqi blood,” said Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi.

“His speech places national and moral duty upon all to protect Iraq and stop political escalation and violence and to immediately engage in dialogue,” he said.

The UN office in Iraq welcomed Mr Al Sadr’s “moderate declaration”.

“As stated yesterday: restraint and calm are necessary for reason to prevail,” it said in a statement.

Parliamentary Speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi, said Mr Al Sadr’s stance was good for Iraq.

“Your position is as big as Iraq, which deserves a lot from us,” he wrote on Twitter.

Former prime minister Haider Al Abadi also called on all armed men to withdraw from the capital immediately.

“There is no justification for the state to stand helpless and watch, especially after the speech of Moqtada Al Sadr to withdraw those who claim to belong to the movement, and this is calculated for his eminence,” Mr Al Abadi said.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, spoke with Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs Fouad Hussein on Monday and discussed relations between the two countries as well as developments in Iraq.

During the phone call, Sheikh Abdullah stressed the UAE's solidarity with Iraq in light of the challenges it is currently facing.

He also emphasised the UAE's support for Iraq's security, stability, unity and sovereignty and his hopes that its people would enjoy prosperity.

Sheikh Abdullah spoke on the well-established relationship between the UAE and Iraq, and the keenness to strengthen ties between them.

He also said the UAE hopes to develop opportunities for joint co-operation in various ways to the benefit of both peoples.

Updated: August 31, 2022, 4:39 AM