Skip to main content

Iraqi cleric's supporters pray in new show of strength

Supporters of the Coordination Framework alliance say they will stay until their demands are met
— Baghdad (AFP)

Thousands of supporters of Iraq's powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr stepped up their pressure tactics Friday with a weekly prayer session in the high-security Green Zone they have occupied for three weeks.

Tensions in the impoverished, war-scarred country have escalated over the inability of political factions to agree on formation of a government, 10 months after parliamentary elections.

Sadr once led an anti-US militia and has millions of devoted followers. Some of them stormed Iraq's parliament late last month and began a sit-in, first inside the building and then on its grounds where thousands remain.

More recently their opponents from a pro-Iran bloc, the Coordination Framework, began their own sit-in on an avenue leading to the Green Zone which houses government institutions and foreign embassies.

"Yes! Yes to Moqtada!" the cleric's followers chanted as the prayers began under a blazing sun.

Sadr did not attend.

Neither was he present Wednesday when caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi met party and other leaders to discuss the political deadlock, which ordinary Iraqis see as having nothing to do with their daily struggles.

Nearly two decades after a US-led invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, the country is blighted by endemic corruption, ailing infrastructure, power cuts, and unemployment.

Sadr wants parliament dissolved to pave the way for new elections, and his followers see him as a champion of the anti-corruption fight.

Their opponents in the Framework seek a transitional government before new polls.

The Coordination Framework comprises former paramilitaries of the Tehran-backed Hashed al-Shaabi network, and the party of former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, a longtime Sadr foe.

Maliki was among those who attended the talks on Wednesday, when political leaders agreed to work on a roadmap aimed at ending the impasse which has left the country without a new prime minister or president.

Mohaned al-Moussaoui, who is close to Sadr, said during his Friday sermon that the "political dialogue is only in the name of your political interests and supporters, and not in the interest of the people."

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Free

The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.

Free

What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing
Expert

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to pro.support@al-monitor.com and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial