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HomeWorldAs Iraq prepares for rival protests near the captured parliament, tensions flare.

As Iraq prepares for rival protests near the captured parliament, tensions flare.

Monday in Baghdad, Iraqi security forces were on high alert as enemies of Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose supporters control the parliament, called for counter-demonstrations.

A political standoff Sadr, a populist with a devoted following of millions among the country’s majority Shiite population, is pitted against the powerful pro-Iran Coordination Framework, another Shiite alliance, 10 months after Iraqis went to the polls.

As iraq prepares for rival protests near the captured parliament, tensions flare.
As iraq prepares for rival protests near the captured parliament, tensions flare.

Since Saturday, Sadr’s supporters have occupied parliament in the normally secure Green Zone, which is also home to government buildings and embassies.

They began their protest in response to the appointment of the rival alliance’s prime minister.

A large number of security forces have erected barriers and checkpoints in anticipation of calls by supporters of the Coordination Framework scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. local time (1400 GMT).

The protests are “not geared against any one group,” according to the supporters’ social media posts.

The demonstration is anticipated to occur on a route leading to the Green Zone, not far from where thousands of Sadr supporters were still camped out at the parliament, waving Sadr flags and photographs.

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As iraq prepares for rival protests near the captured parliament, tensions flare.

A Sadr loyalist has also called on the cleric’s supporters to stage simultaneous demonstrations in each of Iraq’s provinces.

The Coordination Framework comprises legislators from the party of ex-prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, a sworn enemy of Sadr.

It also represents the powerful ex-paramilitary alliance Hashed al-Shaabi, which has been absorbed into the regular army.

Monday, the leader of a faction of the Hashed al-Shaabi, Hadi al-Ameri, reiterated his plea for “constructive conversation that enables solutions to be found to points of conflict.”

He cautioned against “an atmosphere of media escalation, triggered by remarks and counter-statements asking for mass mobilizations that could spiral out of control and result in violence.”

Since the 2003 US-led war that deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, government formation in multi-confessional and multi-ethnic Iraq has included difficult discussions; nonetheless, 10 months of political impasse have left the country without a cabinet, a new prime minister, or a new president.

In recent weeks, Sadr’s tremendous mobilisation of supporters has highlighted his political influence as a fiery preacher who formerly led a militia against American and Iraqi government soldiers.

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