Political chaos erupts in Iraq amid ceaseless military havoc


Source: Xinhua   2016-05-01 21:43:08

CAIRO, May 1 (Xinhua) — Ceaseless warfare has been wrecking Iraq for years, leaving the country more fragile to a recent political chaos after an attempted reform.

Thousands of followers of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Saturday stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad and took control of the parliament building and surrounding areas.

The demonstrators broke into the main gate of the government district, many jumping over the barbed wired fences into the zone that houses major government offices, including the parliament and some foreign embassies.

Footage aired by local media showed dozens of four-wheel drive vehicles, said to be carrying lawmakers and government officials who were trying to escape the zone, were crowded in long lines at other entrance of the zone near the Tigris River.

They were well-controlled by their leaders who shouted with loudspeakers that their move inside the Green Zone must be peaceful and the security forces are their brothers not enemies.

Iraq’s top leaders then called on the protesters to leave the building and preserve the public properties.

“We assure our people that the situation in Baghdad is under the control of the security forces, and I call on the demonstrators to withdraw and protest peacefully, and not to encroach upon the public and private properties, which are the property of all Iraqis,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement.

Meanwhile, President Fuad Masoum urged the protesters to be calm, law-abiding and self-restraint.

“We also call on the prime minister, speaker and leaders of parliament blocs to come up with the desired reshuffle and implement the reforms to fight the corruption,” Masoum said.

“We consider ending the quota system of the political parties and Iraqi factions is an undelayable mission at all,” said Masoum, referring to the political system created following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to which Iraq’s resources and control would be divided among the political parties representing Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian factions.

Abadi was supposed to appear before parliament earlier Saturday to present the remainder of his Cabinet reshuffle, but the session was postponed until next week for lack of quorum.

The incident came minutes after Sadr delivered a televised speech from the holy Shiite city of Najaf, in which he rejected the latest approval of partial cabinet members presented earlier by Abadi.

“Any minister in the Iraqi government is not our candidate and represents only his government,” Sadr said, confirming that he and his followers “will not participate in any political process that includes quota system.”

Some political blocs and politicians apparently have been resisting the reforms because there is a lack of trust among the political parties who see that such reforms, or part of them, are marginalizing their factions from the political scene which originally was built on power-sharing agreements.

Sadr’s discontent with the partial cabinet reshuffle, which was part of Abadi’s reforms, was seen as a signal for his followers to increase pressure on the parliament by storming the Green Zone.

On Tuesday, Iraq’s parliament approved five cabinet members as part of a reshuffle presented by Prime Minister Abadi, who was facing pressure to finalize the stalled reforms.

Legislators voted in the ministers of Health, Water Resources, Labor and Social Affairs, Electricity and Higher Education, after voting on dismissing their former ministers.

The session, which was attended by 180 legislators from the 328-seat parliament, was then adjourned by Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jubouri to Thursday.

However, the session soon became chaotic once Abadi entered the hall, as about 30 dissenting legislators kept shouting “illegal”.

The chaos forced Abadi to withdraw from the session hall after several legislators threw water bottles towards his table.

This is the epitome of failed reform measures which have paralyzed Iraq’s parliament and the government.

Thirteen years after the U.S. invasion to Iraq, the country still suffers power struggle, sectarian strife and bloodshed caused by the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

According to UN Assistance Mission for Iraq report, Iraq has been witnessing some of the worst violence in years. Terrorism and violence have left at least 12,282 civilians dead and 23,126 others injured in 2014, making it the deadliest year since the flare-up of sectarian violence in 2006-2007.

In the UN mission’s latest estimate, 1,119 Iraqis were killed and 1,561 others wounded in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict across Iraq last month alone.

Casualties are frequently reported out of attacks here and there, most of which are in the means of suicide bombs and cross-faction fighting.

On Monday, at least seven people were killed and some 30 others wounded in a car bomb explosion at a marketplace in eastern Baghdad.

On Saturday, up to 24 people were killed and some 38 others wounded when a truck bomb detonated at a crowded livestock market in Nahrawan area in southeastern Baghdad.

On Sunday, at least 20 people were killed and some 40 others wounded when two car bombs went off in the town of Samawa, some 270 km south of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

Heavy clashes erupted between Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shiite fighters in the town of Tuz-Khurmato, some 90 km east of Salahudin’s provincial capital city of Tikrit, killing five and wounding eight others.

The clashes also led to cutting off the main road between the northern city of Kirkuk and Baghdad.

Local authorities imposed a curfew in the town, while officials, political and security leaders gathered for urgent talks in the local government building, seeking to restore calm.

Clashes frequently break out in this ethnically mixed town, which is part of the disputed areas claimed by the Kurds, the Arabs and the Turkomans. The Kurds want to incorporate the areas on the edge of their Kurdistan region, something fiercely opposed by the central government in Baghdad.

Moreover, the war against the IS remains an arduous mission for Iraq and the neighboring countries.

A total of 11 IS militants were killed on Wednesday in clashes and artillery shelling in Iraq’s western province of Anbar, where last Sunday another 35 people were killed in the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and clashes between Iraqi security forces and IS militants.

Last December, the troops recovered Ramadi, the provincial capital of the country’s largest province of Anbar.

Iraqi security forces and allied paramilitary units have been battling IS militants for re-control of large territories in northern and western Iraq that was seized by the IS since June 2014.