Iraq in Crisis – Hundreds Storm the Green Zone
Hundreds of followers of Muqtada Al-Sadr stormed the Parliament in Iraq’s “Green Zone” on April 30. The protest comes as the political situation in Baghdad grows grim. In addition, a state of emergency has been declared in the city. There was also a car bombing on Saturday morning, which was claimed by ISIS.
“Iraq security authorities have declared a state of emergency in Baghdad. All gates that lead to Baghdad are closed. No one is allowed to enter into Baghdad, only those who want to leave Baghdad can do so.” Brig. Gen. Saad Mann, spokesman for the Iraqi military.
The Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, was evacuated as protesters pulled down portions of concrete blast walls around the Green Zone to leave an opening. Some ran around the building and broke into offices in the Parliament building. Police could not stop them without opening fire, so they allowed them entrance.
Protesters also pulled barbed wire across the road, effectively preventing frightened Parliament members and staff from leaving. They also attacked and damaged cars belonging to members, according to Al-Jazeera.
The Institute for the Study of War reported,
Iraq’s political crisis has intensified. Hundreds of supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr stormed the Green Zone on April 30 and entered the Council of Representatives (CoR) building. Sadr and Sadrist Trend leaders have urged for a peaceful demonstration but have not ordered the demonstrators to leave the area, indicating that the Green Zone may see an extended sit-in.
An increase in political upheaval
The political problems have been occurring for weeks, as the Iraqi leadership attempts to install their own people in key positions, and oil prices plunged. The Parliament did not reach a quorum on Saturday.
Muqtada Al-Sadr is a powerful Shi’ite leader. The unrest kicked off just after he condemned the political deadlock.
The positions are given out according to corruption and quotas, according to news reports. Al-Sadr accused the government of failing to address the problem. Last month he reportedly threatened to have his supporters storm the Green Zone if something didn’t change. Nothing changed, so here they are.
The unrest threatens to distract forces from the fight against ISIS, and could leave vulnerability to their attacks. The American embassy could also be at risk, though Al-Sadr told his followers not to engage them. There is no evacuation order at the US Embassy at this time.