Political confrontation in Iraq increases after Shiite leader resigns
By Vatican News staff reporter
As Iraqi deadlock over the formation of a new government continues, political tensions in the country reached a new high on Monday after powerful Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced he will resign from politics and his followers stormed Baghdad's Green Zone.
The announcement has sparked new clashes between protesters and security forces which have left at least 23 dead. Protests also broke out in the Shiite-majority southern provinces, with supporters of the influential political leader blocking roads in the province of Basra and hundreds demonstrating outside the governorate building in Missan.
In response to the violence, Iraq’s military announced a nationwide curfew, and the caretaker premier Mustafa Al-Kadhimi suspended Cabinet sessions.
Fears of escalation
The chaos on Monday has prompted fears of an escalation further destabilizing a country already entangled in its worst political crisis in years. The U.N. mission in Iraq has urged all parties to “refrain from acts that could lead to an unstoppable chain of events”, warning that the “very survival of the state is at stake”.
Iraq has been without a new elected government since the Sadrist Movement won the largest share of seats in the October parliamentary elections, but not enough to secure a majority government. His refusal to negotiate with the rival Iran-backed Shiite Coordination Framework has thrown the country into political turmoil and uncertainty.
In late July, Al-Sadr’s supporters stormed Baghdad's central government zone (the so-called Green Zone) in response to attempts by his Shiite rivals to form a government with premiership candidates he opposed. Since then, they have occupied parliament, halting the process to choose a new president and prime minister, with Al Sadr asking for early elections.
The Church's concern
The political impasse in Iraq has caused concern also among the Chaldean Bishops. In a joint joint statement released during their recent annual Synod, the prelates urged Iraqi political leaders to speed up the formation of a new government to address the widespread corruption and the ongoing economic crisis in the country.
Earlier in August, Patriach Louis Raphael Sako of Baghdad had called on all parties to establish a “national consultation table”, warning that the situation could lead to a “tsunami” with devastating consequences for everybody.
The head of the Chaldean Church further pointed to the urgent need to remove the root structural causes of the continuing chaos in the country and, above all, to recognize the failure of the political system established in 2003 by which power is distributed on an ethnic-sectarian basis. The system is blamed by many Iraqis for the endemic corruption and State dysfunction in nation.
Cardinal Sako has not yet commented on the lastest developments, as he is attending the two-day meeting of the Cardinals with Pope Francis in Rome to discuss reform of the Roman Curia.
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