Iraq’s top Shia cleric urges more to join parliament takeover

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Iraq’s top Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr called on his supporters, including tribal leaders and paramilitary forces, to join thousands of others who are now occupying the nation’s parliament to prevent the formation of a new government.

“This is a great chance for radical change to the political system, he tweeted on Sunday, the day after thousands of supporters stormed the nation’s seat of power, injuring more than 100 people. “Don’t miss your chance.

The weekend’s turmoil intensified the political standoff in Iraq, which has pitted Sadr against other Shia groups in a power struggle. It presents a fresh test to a deeply fragile nation, which endured years of American occupation, attack by extremist Sunni forces and other sectarian violence.

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Groups of supporters breached the parliament earlier last week. But the much larger mobilization on Saturday came as parliament was set to nominate a new prime minister -- now on indefinite hold as Sadr’s supporters settle into the area known as the Green Zone for the foreseeable future.

His group is demanding the dissolving of parliament, fresh elections and changes to the constitution.

Sadr, who organized a militia against American forces in the early days of the Iraq war almost 20 years ago, won national elections in October 2021, but his attempt to form a government with Sunni and Kurdish allies was thwarted by rival Shia groups.

Later he withdrew his 73 representatives from parliament, saying that his rivals were corrupt and tied to Iran.

The Green Zone, the former headquarters for US forces and administrators, now houses the Iraqi parliament, governmental offices and diplomatic missions.

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