For the second time this week, demonstrators stormed the Iraqi Parliament on Saturday, 30 July, to protest against the prime ministerial nomination by rival, Iran-backed parties.
The protesters, who had first barged into the Parliament building on Wednesday, 27 July, are supporters of a cleric named Muqtada al-Sadr, whose political party, the Sadrist Movement, had emerged as the winner of the 2021 parliamentary elections.
They waved Iraqi flags and portraits of al-Sadr, chanted, and sat down in the legislative chamber with no lawmakers present.
Besides, thousands gathered outside the Parliament building as security forces attempted to disperse them by using tear gas, water cannons, and sound grenades .
Similar scenes transpired on Wednesday too, when Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi warned them to leave. Although that did not work, the protests subsided only after Sadr himself asked his followers to go home after praying.
The protesters left, chanting, "We obey the Sayyed" (Sayyed is an honorific title for someone accepted as a descendant of Prophet Muhammad).
What Is Happening in Iraq?
The country has been enduring a political crisis for almost a year now.
After the October elections, al-Sadr’s bloc, while being the largest, was still short of the majority needed to form the government.
The country's different political factions, however, have failed to create a new government due to intense ideological differences. al-Sadr, too, has refused to work with his rivals.
His party is staunchly opposed to Iranian influence in Iraq's domestic politics. On the other hand, there are Shia political parties cum militias, funded and supported by Iran, that gained popularity and clout in Iraqi politics after playing a contributory role in the defeat of ISIS between 2014 and 2017.
The Coordination Framework, an all-Shiite body, formally nominated Mohammed al-Sudani to the prime ministerial post earlier this week.
al-Sadr and his supporters have opposed the nomination of the 52-year-old, who belongs to the Islamic Dawa Party. The party, founded more than fifty years ago, supported the Iranian revolution and the Ruhollah Khomeini, and even supported Iran during the Iran-Iraq war.
It continues to receive major funding from Iran. Naturally, Mohammed al-Sudani is considered to be too close to Iran, which is why his nomination has led to protests.
al-Sudani's father and some other family members were killed by the Saddam Hussein regime in 1980 (when tensions with Iran were sky high and al-Sudani was just a young boy). The political murder was allegedly carried out because al-Sudani's father was an active member of the Islamic Dawa Party, according to Gulf News.
For him to win the post, al-Sudani would need 165 out of 329 votes in the Parliament. That is going to be tough given that the biggest Sunni bloc, Al Taqqadum, is allied with the Sadrist Movement.