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Baghdad is still in a profound state of chaos days after protesters started withdrawing from its Green Zone, the capital’s government district, in what has been the worst sign in recent years of Sunni-Shia division amid the threat from the Islamic State (ISIS).
The demonstrators, who also stormed the Parliament, are mostly supporters of the Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, outraged by the slow pace of progress in appointing a new government and implementing major reforms.
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On Sunday, anti-government protesters temporarily ended their mass demonstration in the Green Zone and began an orderly withdrawal a day after tearing down walls around the government district and invading the seat of legislative.
However, reports have begun to emerge that the protests may not have been spontaneous and that security forces allowed the protesters in without hindrance, indicating they were being fully controlled by Sadr.
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"Iraq now faces dire political risks. The upcoming period will be even more dangerous due to the ongoing chaos," warned Wathaq al-Hashimi, head of the Iraqi Group for Strategic Research, noting further that both the U.S. and the UN (among others) had condemned the Sadrists’ occupation of the Iraqi parliament.
In this respect, some Shia militia groups denounced the violent protests sparked by the Sadr movement’s supporters.
Saraya al-Khorasani, Iraqi Hezbollah, the Badr Brigades and Asaib Ahl al-Haq groups settled in some areas in Baghdad, claiming that the storm unleashed by the Sadr movement had endangered security in the capital. This prompted fears of renewed internal Shia clashes.
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Sadr-led demonstrators have been pressing for a technocrat government to replace the current executive led by PM Haidar al-Abadi ostensibly in order to fight corruption and remove sectarian affiliations.
This internal political crisis comes as Iraq is threatened by ISIS, which it is fighting in intense battles in the disputed territories in the Iraqi north.
On Tuesday, the U.S. and coalition partners launched 22 air strikes on ISIS targets in Iraq. Ten of those strikes hit the city of Mosul—an ISIS stronghold which Iraqi forces are currently trying desperately to retake.
By Charles Kennedy
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com