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At least 15 people have been killed and scores of others wounded in overnight fighting in the Iraqi capital, following protestors’ storming of the presidential palace on Monday.
Fighting broke out in and around the Green Zone after hundreds of protesters loyal to powerful Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadar tore down cement barriers and charged through the Republican Palace following the cleric’s announcement earlier on Monday that he would withdraw from politics.
The Iraqi military imposed a curfew after the presidential palace was breached, and fighting broke out between al-Sadr’s supporters and military forces. Police have responded with tear gas and physical fights with protesters.
Iraqi media has cited health officials as saying that some 270 people had been wounded either by gunfire or clashes with riot police.
Al-Sadr has now announced he is on a hunger strike.
The Shi’ite cleric has opposed the nomination of a pro-Iranian Shi’ite for prime minister and has used his protesters to prevent the formation of a new government. Iraq has been unable to form a new government since elections in October 2021, when the Sadrists won seats that had belonged to Iran-backed Shi’ites, but not enough to form a government without a coalition, which al-Sadr refused to do.
Neighboring Iran, whose militia proxies are at odds with fellow Shi’ites loyal to al-Sadr, has closed its land borders with Iraq amid the outbreak of violence in Baghdad.
Tensions have been rising in recent weeks in Iraq, with the potential to further rattle oil markets if uncertainty and instability hit a critical level in OPEC’s second-largest producer.
Political uncertainty in Iraq, which pumped 4.496 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil in July, could add to the current supply fears helping to drive prices higher. Supply fears are being driven presently by renewed fighting and political uncertainty in Libya, as well as by statements from OPEC+ officials about the potential for new production cuts.
By Charle Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com