Iraqi leaders call for Sadr participation to resolve political crisis

Political actors to form a national technical team to overcome differences and avoid bloodshed

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi, President Barham Salih and Speaker of Parliament Mohammed Al Halbousi meet with the leaders of the Iraqi political parties in Baghdad on September 5, 2022.  Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office via Reuters
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Iraqi political leaders agreed on Monday to work towards fresh elections to end 11 months of deadlock following a general election in October last year.

Representatives of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties met in Baghdad with Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi and President Barham Salih for a second round of "national dialogue" on ways to overcome the impasse one week after political tensions escalated into deadly clashes in the capital.

They agreed on six major points, including the formation of a technical team to bring all parties into agreement on the next steps needed.

"The establishment of a technical team from various political actors is to ensure that all sides will have a common vision about the road map of a national solution, to bring views closer, to reach early elections and review the electoral laws," the prime minister's office said in a statement issued after the meeting.

The politicians stressed the need to "activate institutions and constitutional entitlements", it said.

They also called for the politicians aligned with the influential cleric Moqtada Al Sadr to take part in the dialogue.

Participants at Monday's meeting "renewed their invitation for brothers in the Sadrist movement to take part in technical and political meetings ... to reach a solution," the statement said.

Mr Al Sadr's political bloc boycotted yesterday's talks as well as the first round held on August 17.

The cleric has been calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections.

His rivals in the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, which consists of influential Tehran-backed militias and political parties, want a new head of government appointed before new polls are held.

Under the constitution, parliament can only be dissolved by an absolute majority vote in the house, following a request by one-third of deputies or by the prime minister with the approval of the president.

Mr Al Sadr argues that his request was based on parliament missing the constitutional deadlines for appointing a new president and prime minister.

Sadrist MPs emerged as the largest bloc in parliament with 73 seats in the October election, but resigned in June following unsuccessful attempts to form the next government with allied parties.

Mr Al Sadr's supporters occupied the parliament building in Baghdad's high-security Green Zone in late July, in a bid to stop the Coordination Framework from attempting to form a government.

They stormed a government palace in the area after the cleric announced that he was quitting politics last Monday, triggering armed clashes that resulted in the deaths of at least 30 people, with more than 400 injured.

Mr Al Sadr withdrew his followers from the Green Zone after the clashes last week, allowing parliamentary staff to return to work on Sunday for the first time in more than a month .

Mr Al Kadhimi has backed the national dialogue as a way to resolve the political crisis peacefully amid mounting fears that it could lead to clashes between armed groups allied to the political rivals.

He discussed the situation with visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs Barbara Leaf on Sunday.

US President Joe Biden had a phone call with Mr Al Kadhimi on the same day and commended his leadership during the worsening tension and violence in Iraq, the White House said.

It said the two leaders agreed to stay in touch in the coming weeks.

Ms Leaf also met Mr Al Halbousi discussed the importance of overcoming the crisis in the country, the Iraqi News Agency reported.

“During the meeting, regional and international developments were also discussed, as well as a number of issues of common interest,” the speaker's media office said.

“Ms Leaf confirmed her country's continued support for Iraq in accordance with the strategic framework agreement between the two countries and work to strengthen the partnership between Baghdad and Washington.”

The statement noted the importance of “strengthening the national dialogue between Iraqi leaders to overcome the crisis that the country is going through”.

Updated: September 05, 2022, 3:55 PM