August 31, 2022 | Flash Brief

Clashes Erupt in Iraq in Response to Sadr’s Resignation

August 31, 2022 | Flash Brief

Clashes Erupt in Iraq in Response to Sadr’s Resignation

Latest Developments

Supporters of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone on Monday and clashed with security forces, leaving at least 30 dead and 400 wounded. The conflict was in response to Sadr’s announcement of his resignation from Iraqi politics, angering his followers, who support his efforts to end Iranian influence in the government. The violence subsided on Tuesday when Sadr urged his backers to end their protests and go home.

Expert Analysis

“America should make clear to the Iranian regime that it is still engaged in Iraq, and that the United States will help Baghdad restore its sovereignty by disarming and disbanding the pro-Iran militias. Any other American position would be construed in Tehran as a signal that Washington is no longer invested in Iraq, and that Iran is free to stoke civil war and dominate its neighbor to the west.” – Hussain Abdul-Hussain, FDD Research Fellow

A Conflict Long in the Making

The current conflict dates to October 2021, when the pro-Iran bloc suffered a defeat in parliamentary elections. Sadr, who heads the largest bloc, assembled a 200-member majority coalition and re-elected the parliament’s anti-Iran speaker. That coalition was on its way to electing a president and forming a cabinet when the Iraqi Supreme Court, acting at Tehran’s behest, ruled that a parliamentary quorum must consist of two-thirds of parliament’s 329 members. The ruling left Sadr unable to form a government, freezing the majority in its tracks and forcing months of stalemate.

Sadr Inadvertently Empowers Iran

In response to the court ruling, Sadr instructed his bloc of 73 MPs to resign. The pro-Iran bloc jumped on the opportunity by swearing in its defeated candidates from the 2021 elections to replace the Sadrists. The Iran bloc thus obtained a majority and tried to rush the election of a president and formation of a cabinet to its liking. To stop Tehran, Sadr was left with only one tool: the street. Over the past weeks, Sadr’s supporters have stormed the fortified Green Zone several times and surrounded the Supreme Court building, demanding that it dissolve parliament.

Further Conflict in Iraq Could Destabilize the Region

Iraq is the fourth-biggest biggest exporter of oil in the world, shipping close to 4 million barrels per day. If the violence grows, Iraqi oil production and exports might go offline, thus squeezing an already starved global energy market. A new round of civil war in Iraq would also create tens of thousands of refugees who may try to find their way to Western countries. In recent years, Iraq’s neighbors, such as Jordan, have already seen their economies approach their breaking points due to the influx of close to a million refugees.

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