Tensions soar as rival protests take place near Iraqi Parliament
IRAQ: Iraqi Security Forces were on high alert in Baghdad as tensions soared after rivals of Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose supporters are occupying the parliament, called for counter-demonstrations.
A political standoff 10 months after Iraqis went to the polls pits Sadr — a populist with a devoted following of millions among the country’s majority Shiite population — against the powerful pro-Iran Coordination Framework, another Shiite alliance.
Sadr’s supporters have been occupying Parliament in the normally High-Security Green Zone — also home to government buildings and embassies — since Saturday.
They started their protest in response to the rival alliance’s prime ministerial nomination.
Large numbers of Security Forces set up roadblocks and checkpoints, ahead of calls by supporters of the Coordination Framework. The Coordination Framework includes lawmakers from the party of Sadr’s longtime foe, ex-Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
It also represents the powerful pro-Iran former paramilitary alliance Hashed al-Shaabi, now integrated into the regular forces.
In multi-confessional and multi-ethnic Iraq, Government formation has involved complex negotiations since a 2003 US-led invasion toppled former President Saddam Hussein, but in this case 10 month of political deadlock have left the country without a Government, a new Prime Minister or a new President.- ALJAZEERA