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Night Of Fighting Finally Calms In Iraqi Capital After 30 Deaths

Protesters have disbanded from Iraq’s fortified Green Zone in Baghdad after their leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, threatened to resign if they did not leave the palace within the hour at 1 p.m. Tuesday afternoon local time.

Sadr apologized for the violence that erupted in the diplomatic area containing Iraqi government buildings when Sadr’s supporters stormed the cabinet headquarters and began fighting with opposing Iran-backed militia, Reuters reported. Iraqi security forces implemented a nationwide curfew, since lifted, and attempted to put down the demonstrations with tear gas, gunfire and brute force, causing at least 23 deaths among the pro-Sadr factions.

“This is not a revolution because it has lost its peaceful character,” Sadr said in a televised conference Tuesday, after declaring a hunger strike the night before, according to Reuters. “The spilling of Iraqi blood is forbidden.”

“Within 60 minutes, if the Sadrist Movement does not withdraw, including from the sit-in at parliament, then even I will leave the movement,” he added.

Militants fired four rockets into Baghdad’s Green Zone earlier on Tuesday, following a night of sustained fighting, according to Reuters. Militants clustered around buildings and behind concrete barriers, firing automatic rifles and brandishing grenade launchers from atop pickup trucks.

Sadr’s Minster calling all armed factions even if they are under PMF umbrella to leave the Green Zone, so Iraqi Security Forces can take control of the situation. #Iraq

— Tammuz Intel (@Tammuz_Intel) August 30, 2022

Thirty people were killed and 750 wounded during the violence in Baghdad’s Green Zone, Middle East Eye reported, citing military sources.

The fighting also extended to the southern provinces of Missan and Basra. Unrest in Basra has also died down and there are no reports of casualties yet, according to Middle East Eye.

Iran closed its borders and suspended flights to and from Iraq, according to Reuters.

Officials cast doubt on the interim Iraqi government’s ability to monitor and suppress unrest as tensions between factions grow. “The government is powerless to stop this, because the military is divided into (Iran) loyalists and Sadrists as well,” a government official told Reuters.

Sadrists have occupied parliament for weeks, according to Reuters. Competition between the Sadrists and Iran-backed political groups, including the PMF militia, has frozen the government for the past 10 months.

On Monday, Sadr announced that he planned to indefinitely remove himself from politics and close his institutions, sparking the initial uprising. Interim Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi indefinitely suspended cabinet meetings after the demonstrators occupied the palace.

Sadr won a majority in the October elections but failed to form a coalition government, instead advocating for the dissolution of Parliament and early elections. While currently a member of the ruling Shiite majority faction supported by the U.S. since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Sadr has previously aligned with Iran and led an anti-U.S. insurgent militia.

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