US affirms right to 'peaceful protest' in accord 'with the Iraqi constitution'
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – The US affirmed on Saturday the right of Iraqis to protest and demonstrate peacefully. It also called on all parties to refrain from violence, as supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr stormed the so-called "Green Zone," where Iraq's government facilities are located, and occupied the parliament.
Sadr's party received the most votes in last October's elections. It is aligned with the largest Sunni Arab Party, Taqqadum (Progress), and the largest Kurdish party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
Weakness of Democratic Tradition in Iraq
The three political parties, together, hold a majority of seats in the Iraqi parliament. They, therefore, should be empowered to form the new government after Iraq's elections last October, nearly ten months ago.
However, the majority parties have been blocked by parties aligned with Iran. Those parties are demanding their share of ministries—and the resources that come with ministries.
They call such an allocation of posts a "consensual" government, although outside observers would suggest that it speaks to the lack of any real democratic tradition in Iraq. Others, including Sadr and his supporters, say it reflects widespread corruption among Iraq's political class.
The result has been a political deadlock, with the previous prime minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, serving in a caretaker role since the elections.
The Coordination Framework had intended to choose Mohammed al-Sudani as the next prime minister. Sudani is a close associate of Nouri al-Maliki. He was governor of Iraq's southern Maysan Province before joining Maliki's government after Maliki became prime minister in 2010.
Maliki's government was highly sectarian. ISIS emerged during his time as prime minister. Part of the group's appeal was its claim that it would represent the interests of disenfranchised Iraqi Sunnis against Maliki's Shiite regime in Baghdad. As ISIS seized one-third of the country, the Obama administration, which had recently withdrawn US forces from Iraq, was obliged to send them back.
As it did so, however, it made Maliki's resignation a condition of US support. Thus, it would be highly ironic if, some eight years later, a Maliki protege was to become Iraq's premier.
Saturday's Events and US Statement
As the Sadrists broke into the Green Zone and entered parliament to block any vote on Sudani, some 125 people were injured, according to Iraq's Ministry of Health. Of that number, some 100 were civilians and 25 were security forces.
The protestors have now vowed to remain in parliament until their demands, first and foremost the rejection of Sudani as prime minister, are met.
They have also demanded that Maliki be put on trial.
Kurdistan 24 asked the State Department in Washington for comment on Saturday's events and was directed to the Facebook page of the US Embassy in Baghdad.
"We are closely monitoring" today's unrest in Baghdad, the embassy said, and we "are concerned about reports of violence."
"The right to peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression are guaranteed in the Iraqi constitution," the embassy statement continued.
"We join our voice with the call of Iraqi political parties of different sects," it added, "to shun violence and resolve political differences through peaceful action, according to the constitution of Iraq."