Iraq tightens security in Baghdad over fears of more deadly protests

Fresh calls to resolve political deadlock that has been in place for 11 months

A police officer stands guard in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, where fears of another outbreak of deadly violence are mounting. AFP
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Security was tightening around the Iraqi capital on Tuesday over fears of a potentially chaotic protest by followers of the cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, who are demanding an end to the political impasse that is blocking government formation.

The military said forces had been stationed around Baghdad, “with the aim of enhancing security, stability and raising the capabilities of the security units”, and had been in place since Monday night.

Iraq has been in deadlock since October over a government formation process, whereby various political actors have failed to agree on a candidate for the positions of prime minister, president and parliamentary speaker.

The dispute between the two largest Shiite blocs over how these vital posts will be divided among various political groups has led to the country being without a newly elected government for 11 months.

Mr Al Sadr and his backers have staged a series of recent protests across the country against their rival Shiite group, the Co-ordination Framework.

Tension reached breaking point late last month, when the cleric's supporters stormed Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, triggering clashes with Iran-backed militias in which official Iraqi security forces were forced to intervene.

At least 30 people, mostly Mr Al Sadr's supporters, were killed and 400 injured in the violence that followed his announcement that he was quitting politics.

Normal life has returned to Baghdad but the political stand-off remains.

However, officials close to Mr Al Sadr this week issued a warning of another round of protests should the outstanding issues remain unresolved.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi described the current political crisis as “challenging”.

“However, the doors to a solution are still open and this requires dialogue that places the interest of Iraq and all its people above all other considerations,” he said.

Mr Al Kadhimi called on all those involved “to exercise calm, patience and to adopt the approach of dialogue and reason”.

Updated: September 20, 2022, 3:51 PM