Has Iraq descended into battleground for Shiite-on-Shiite civil war?

Followers of Muqtada al-Sadr attend open-air Friday prayers in Sadr City, Baghdad on March 9, 2018. (AP)

Following a messy election, Sadrists in Iraq have ripped down portraits of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei enhancing prospects of Shiite-on-Shiite civil war, a report in the Economist has revealed.

According to the report, political tensions are turning violent and spilling out of the Green Zone and even though American and Iranian commanders battled in tandem against ISIS, they are now at loggerheads.

Following the general election in May, Iran wants a “Shiite house” comprising more than 200 of the parliament’s 329 members drawn from a range of Shiite parties.

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The report says that General Suleimani’s rival bloc, known as al-Bina (“Reconstruction”), has 109 members and neither side has the majority to choose a president and prime minister.

According to the report, Iran is dangerously flexing its muscle in Basra, which is close to the Iranian border, and Iraqis who see Iran as their chief ally are fuming.

Moqtada al-Sadr shows his ink-stained index finger outside a polling station in Najaf on May 12, 2018 as the country votes in the first parliamentary election since declaring victory over ISIS. (AFP)

Moqtada al-Sadr shows his ink-stained index finger outside a polling station in Najaf on May 12, 2018 as the country votes in the first parliamentary election since declaring victory over ISIS. (AFP)

Dearth of pilgrims

On one hand, hoteliers in Iraqi cities hosting Shiite shrines bemoan the recent dearth of Iranian pilgrims while, on the other hand, Iraq’s nationalist camp is feverish.

Iran bara, bara!” (“Out, out, Iran!”), chant supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr whose bloc won the most seats in the election. Massing for Friday prayers in Baghdad’s Sadr City, they castigate pro-Iranian militia leaders, whom they once cheered for repelling ISIS, saying they are worse than Saddam Hussein.

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The report says that in the past, Iraq’s senior Shiite clergy in Najaf, such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, would have mediated to end crises. But their authority has waned and the non-aligned Kurds have also watched from the sidelines.

“Few influential voices urge compromise. Militiamen and politicians alike predict a return to assassinations and a Shiite-on-Shiite civil war. And after months of merciful calm, the thud of car-bombs can be heard again on highways out of Baghdad,” says the report.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:03 - GMT 11:03
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