Iraq has become a battleground for the US and Iran
Ali Ammar is a pseudonym of the Iraqi author of this article, whose real name we withhold in order not to endanger his life.
Baghdad witnessed a historic day on July 30, when [Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada] al-Sadr called on his supporters to return to the streets. If [Grand Ayatollah Ali] al-Sistani does not intervene, a dangerous phase will begin. The repercussions of this state of affairs will be grave for Southern Kurdistan.
As is known, the Shiite Coordination Framework in Iraq has failed to form a government headed by a candidate backed by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This was the message Muqtada al-Sadr's supporters sent to everyone when they stormed the Parliament building on Wednesday night.
The storming of Baghdad's "Green Zone" opened the door to a number of dangerous scenarios, including the declaration of a "state of emergency" in which the constitution would be suspended. The image of [Islamic Dawa Party Chair and Former Iraqi Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki, Sadr's main rival, carrying a gun in the Green Zone also sent the counter-message that he would continue with his plans to form a government in defiance of Sadr.
SADR'S SUPPORTERS TAKE TO THE STREETS
Sadr turned to the streets on the night of July 29 after withdrawing from Parliament. His supporters poured into the streets at night following Sadr's call and stormed 12 offices of Shiite leader Ammar Al-Hakim's Hikmat movement in Baghdad and southern Iraq. Sadr's supporters also stormed three Maliki offices. The incidents are a joint effort of Sadr, [Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa] Al-Kadhimi, [Sunni Sovereignty Alliance leader Khamis] Al-Khanjar, [Iraqi Speaker of the Council of Representatives Mohamed] Al-Halbousi and [President of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region Nechirvan] Barzani. On the other side are supporters of Iran. If Sistani will not intervene, Iraq threatens to become the scene of a concrete war between the US and Iran.
Maliki is also said to have lost the support of some leaders within the Coordination Framework. These leaders are rumored to be reconsidering their options in the wake of the attack on the parliament. Several courses of action are reported to have been tossed around in Maliki's entourage on how to deal with Sadr's advances, including using the same means through street demonstrations in support of the "constitutional process."
MALIKI KEEPS HIS QUIET
Although Maliki was open to the option of ending Sadr's power on the streets, it was foreseeable that counter-demonstrations could escalate into a confrontation between the two sides. Indeed, there was always the possibility that the conflict between Sadr and Maliki could turn into an open confrontation between the two sides. For this reason, many politicians believed that setting a timetable for early elections was the wisest course of action. Maliki made a display of arms to Sadr, who took to the streets with the attack on the parliament Wednesday night.
Sadr's trump card is his loyal followers, while Maliki's is arms: the Hashd al-Shaabi, in other words. Sadr played his trump card on the night of July 29, calling his supporters out in the hours ahead. Maliki has not taken any countermeasures, yet.
Following Sadr's call for his supporters to return to the streets, it was learned that at around 01:30 on the night of July 29-30, Ismail Qaani, the commanding general of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, arrived back in Baghdad.
SADR SEEKS AN ELECTION IN HIS FAVOR
Sadr is not opposed to early elections, but sources close to him say he does not want to go to the polls in the shadow of a government formed by the Coordination Framework. In other words, Muqtada al-Sadr ultimately wants elections that are not manipulated by the Coordination Framework and in which the balance is tipped in his favor. The Coordination Framework, for its part, is in favor of amending the electoral law and abolishing the current "High Electoral Council."
Nouri al-Maliki calls for the introduction of a "proportional representation" system in which each province has a center. The "conflict" between the two political agendas for governing the country have reached their peak. It is highly unlikely that this struggle will end with a settlement; one side will need to prevail in the end. What is still unclear is the means and methods that will be used to resolve this "conflict."
So far, Tehran has kept a low profile and has been reluctant to openly advise its allies.
Sadr and the KDP have followed the same course throughout the process. For the Iraqi president, the KDP says no to Berhem Saleh and Sadr says no to Sudani. They seek to bend the will of the other party through blackmail. They won't accept any candidate other than the one they want.
Muqtada al-Sadr allegedly considers Faik Zeidan, president of Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council, as an adversary and demands the dissolution of the council. Faik Zeidan had supported the obstructionist role given to the "one third " in the presidential elections. The Coordination Framework, on the other hand, is strongly opposed to this demand.
Muqtada al-Sadr, who so far seems to have the upper hand thanks to the "street demonstrations," is not expected to back down. Leaders of the coordination framework, who believe reconciliation with Sadr is necessary, prefer to remain silent so as not to be seen as anti-Maliki. Iraqi politicians predict that the debate over the Supreme Judicial Council will be at the heart of the conflict between Maliki and Sadr, while the imposition of a state of emergency by the Supreme Judicial Council will not solve the problem but will trigger a new dispute.
SECURITY CHECKS TIGHTENED IN BAGHDAD
Iraqi security sources and eyewitnesses reported that Iraqi authorities tightened security in the Green Zone and on some Baghdad streets in anticipation of the demonstrations and closed key bridges in central Baghdad on July 29.
According to the sources, security officials have stepped up government efforts to protect the Green Zone with additional concrete blocks and by deploying additional forces at the entrances to the area. The sources also reported that security forces have been deployed on the main avenues, roads and bridges connecting the two parts of Baghdad.
The National Wisdom Movement, led by Ammar al-Hakim, announced that its supporters would take to the streets of Baghdad on the evening of July 29 to launch a new initiative to resolve the country's political crisis, eliminate constitutional problems and elect a new president and head of the country's next government. On the afternoon of July 28, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said that the government had taken on the task of providing security, maintaining social peace, and protecting public and private institutions and diplomatic missions.
Moreover, it can be said that the reason why all Iraqi Shiites are on one side and Sadr on another is Sadr's anti-Iranianism and his desire to develop Arab Shiism. In any case, no power in the region, except the US could unite Sadr, Halbousi, Khanjar and the KDP.
What is happening in Iraq could develop into a tremendously bitter civil war. However, the main difference between the Shiites and the Sunnis is that the Shiites have a very effective power center. A single statement by Khamenei or Sistani can prevent conflicts that could result in the deaths of thousands of people.
SUPPORTERS OF SADR TOWARDS THE GREEN ZONE
Protests broke out in Baghdad around nine in the morning on July 30. Sadr supporters attempted to break through the walls of the Green Zone and storm the courthouse.
The fact that security forces did not take any action against supporters of Sadr who breached the Green Zone walls makes it less likely that these events took place without the consent of Iraqi Prime Minister Kadhimi.
After the supporters of the Sadr destroyed all bridges and concrete barriers in the Green Zone, including the Republican Bridge, and advanced to the Zaytun Tunnel in the center of the Security Zone, gunshots were heard in the area. The demonstrators who entered the Green Zone were met with armed force. Three protesters were shot in the head and many people were injured.
SADR SUPPORTERS IN THE GREEN ZONE
Sadr's supporters entered Baghdad's Green Zone and headed for the Presidential Palace. Many politicians left the area and some influential figures took their families out of Baghdad.
Had Sadr not called his supporters to take to the streets, Parliament would have convened today to elect a president, before the elected president had formed a government and appointed a prime minister-designate.
Supporters of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr responded to his call and took to the streets, storming the parliament building in the Green Zone before beginning to march towards the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council building.
THE IRAQI PARLIAMENT UNDER OCCUPATION
Members of the Sadrist Movement have once again occupied Iraq's parliament, which is located in the secured Green Zone. The occupation of the parliament, which began yesterday morning, continues.
Sadr supporters spent the night in the parliament building. They held communal prayers and organized a Hosseini mourning ceremony commemorating the beginning of the month of Muharram. Hussein's banner was hung on the parliament building. In addition, trucks and lorries brought material to the building throughout the night until this morning. Concrete blocks were brought in to cordon off the parliament building, and walls were built over the doors. Tents were set up in front of the parliament and truckloads of supplies and cooking equipment were brought in. Hundreds of Sadr supporters continued to enter the Green Zone throughout the night, as there was no control over entry and exit into the Green Zone. Preparations indicate that the Sadrists are planning a prolonged occupation of the parliament.
COMMANDER OF QUDS FORCES QAANI IN BAGHDAD
Iran is the most influential power in the Shiite world and seeks to expand and consolidate its influence in the region, particularly in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq, through military efforts across the Shiite geography. The commander of the Revolutionary Guards Army's Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, who masterminded this entire organization, was killed in Baghdad by a US attack. He was replaced by General Ismail Qaani, who arrived in Baghdad immediately after the occupation of the parliament four days ago and held a meeting with the leaders of the Shiite Coordination Framework after the occupation ended, and then returned to Tehran after a visit to Karbala.
During yesterday's events and the reoccupation of parliament, it became evident that Qaani has again gone to Baghdad and that he is still believed to be there. Qaani's arrival in Baghdad is a clear message from Tehran to Sadr and his allies. Considering Iran's support for the Shiite Coordination Framework and its accusation of Sadr for associating with the United States, we can safely say that the process will be painful for Sadr.
COORDINATION FRAMEWORK CALLS FOR DIALOGUE
Within hours of the events, leaders of the components of the Shiite Coordination Framework began issuing statements. The alliance, led by Maliki, includes all Shiite organizations other than Sadr's. The Coordination has the power of arms in the face of Sadr's massive support. The organization to which Hashd al-Shaabi's forces are affiliated initially called on the people to take to the streets and protect state institutions against Sadr. The call posed a great danger to Iraq as it was only a matter of time before a bloody inter-Shiite conflict broke out.
The call was heeded for the first time in Basra and people took to the streets. The alliance also claimed that this was a coup attempt by Sadr and current Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi. As the hours passed, the ongoing silence of the Coordination Framework leaders suggested that heated exchanges had been taking place. Later in the evening, statements started to emerge from the leaders in which many influential figures, including Ammar al-Hakim, Nouri Maliki, Hadi Amiri, Qeys al-Xezeli and others, expressed their willingness to resolve the issues through dialogue. They have called on Sadr for dialogue, but it is not yet clear how Sadr will respond to his rivals, whose actions will determine the course of events.
125 INJURED IN INCIDENTS
Pro-Sadr demonstrators who continued to advance toward the Green Zone were fired upon from buildings. While the Iraqi Health Ministry announced that 60 people were wounded, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi and the General Staff called on pro-Sadr demonstrators not to escalate tensions. The Arab League then called on all sides to de-escalate tensions. Tensions and dangerous wait-and-see continue in Iraq. As we consider the developments in light of Iraq's strategic situation, we must be aware that any unfolding events will have major repercussions for the region and the world.