Iraq on the brink of chaos after protesters stormed Baghdad’s parliament

Iraqi Parliament

Thousands breached the fortified center of Baghdad to prevent the formation of a new government (Image: AP)

Thousands of demonstrators have stormed the fortified center of Baghdad and occupied parliament.

A huge crowd poured into the green zone to prevent the formation of a government with close ties to Iran.

Supporters of populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr broke down concrete barriers and broke in amid gunfire from Iraqi security forces.

The group stormed the Parliament building and announced an indefinite sit-in, while the Supreme Court responded by issuing an arrest warrant for one of their leaders.

At least 125 people were injured and the standoff could once again push the country’s fragile politics into widespread armed violence.

The protests are centered on the Green Zone – officially known as the International Zone – which serves as the center of the Iraqi government and houses international missions behind thick layers of security.

It is the second time in a week that the strictly controlled area has been stormed. has asked the Foreign Office whether British staff working in the zone have been evacuated.

Iraqi protesters pose with national flags, a blood-stained shirt and pictures of Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr at the parliament building in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, July 30, 2022. Thousands of supporters of the influential Shi'a cleric rioted at Iraq's parliament on Saturday, for the second time in a row week to protest government-forming efforts led by Iran-backed groups. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)

Sadr’s supporters oppose government formation by Shia groups against their leader (Image: AP)

Sadr’s party was the largest after October’s elections, but he failed to form a government, refused to cooperate with his Shia rivals and accused them of having ties to Iran.

He has previously threatened to foment unrest if a government he opposes is formed and has taken a platform to fight corruption and foreign influence.

Critics accuse him of using his influence to enrich himself and say he is only interested in power on his own terms.

Because of the deadlock in parliament, Iraq has been without a president and prime minister for 10 months.

Today’s unrest comes amid signs the coalition framework, the loose grouping of parties Sadr opposes, led by former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, is moving closer to a deal.

With tensions high in Baghdad, Sadr’s rivals called on their supporters to take to the streets to protest the occupation of the parliament building.

Fearing violent clashes, the United Nations called for de-escalation, saying in a statement: “Voices of reason and wisdom are crucial to prevent further violence.”

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Justin Scacco

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