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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Iraqi Shiite cleric calls on pro-Iran militias to disband

Iraq’s influential Shiite cleric who emerged as a winner in last month’s general elections on Thursday called on the country’s myriad pro-Iran Shiite armed factions to disband if they want to join his upcoming government. The militias are certain to reject the demands, which in turn could complicate al-Sadr’s efforts to form a government after the vote.

Muqatada al-Sadr also asked the factions to hand over their weapons to the government-sanctioned umbrella known as Popular Mobilization Forces. In turn, he also asked the PMF to “purify” its ranks from “undisciplined elements” and surrender “corrupt individuals” to the judiciary. Powerful Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urged the country’s paramilitaries on Thursday to purge what he called undisciplined members and for non-state armed groups to hand over their weapons.

The militias are certain to reject the demands, which in turn could complicate al-Sadr’s efforts to form a government after the vote. It could also increase tensions between Shiites who support the pro-Iran factions and al-Sadr’s own followers.

Read more: Iraq orders 12 JF-17 fighter jets from Pakistan

Pro-Iran factions lost a significant number of parliament seats in Oct

10 elections and have called the vote fraudulent, rejecting the results. Their supporters have held protests outside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, home to government offices and foreign embassies.

The protests turned deadly earlier this month when demonstrators tried to enter the Green Zone, demanding a ballot recount. One protester affiliated with the militias was killed in an exchange of fire, for which the militias blamed Iraq’s incumbent Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Tensions were further ratcheted up after a failed assassination attempt against al-Kadhimi at his residence the next day. The prime minister suffered a light cut and several of his guards were injured in the Nov. 7 attack by armed drones on his Green Zone residence. There was no responsibility claim for the attack, although suspicion immediately fell on the armed factions.

“Your losses can’t be a pretext for ruining the democratic process,” al-Sadr said at a rare press conference Thursday, addressing the factions.

Read more: ‘Armed drone’ attack on Arbil airport, Iraq

Tensions have risen further 

Tensions were further ratcheted up after a failed assassination attempt against al-Kadhimi at his residence the next day. The prime minister suffered a light cut and several of his guards were injured in the November 7 attack by armed drones on his Green Zone residence.

There was no responsibility claim for the attack, although suspicion immediately fell on the armed factions.

“Your losses can’t be a pretext for ruining the democratic process,” al-Sadr says at a rare press conference today, addressing the factions.

Reuters with additional input by GVS