Violent Street Clashes and Civil Unrest In Baghdad

Nicole Martin, Senior Copy Editor

Violent street clashes plagued Iraq’s capital of Baghdad on Aug. 29 and continue to fester as followers of Muqtada al-Sadr – an Iraqi politician, militia leader and head of the Sadrist Movement – instigated fights with security forces. 

The fights in Baghdad began due to al-Sadr’s announcement that he would resign from Iraqi politics after a long line of failed power agreements with fellow Shia-Muslim leaders regarding the formation of a new government system as idealized by Sadr.  Shortly after his announcement, supporters of al-Sadr stormed the Green Zone—the heavily fortified government center where government buildings and international embassies are housed.  

According to the Iraqi military, supporters tore down gates and cement barriers, where four rockets were shot into the zone. Gunfire also came from both sides. By nightfall, the fighting became worse, so citizens were told to stay in their homes. Currently, 34 people have been killed with more than 400 injured.

According to sources by Al Jazeera – a Middle Eastern news source – negotiations between government officials, Sadrist movement leaders and the Coordination Framework Alliance are currently taking place in an attempt to minimize the fighting.

This thread of violence stems from the current power vacuum within Iraqi politics and years of civil unrest. Specifically, the current violence dates back to political issues from Oct. 2021, when Iraq held its parliamentary elections. Al-Sadr’s party, the Sadrists, was the biggest party with 73 seats but failed to achieve its goal of forming a new type of government system based on majority decision-making instead of consensus decisions. So, when Al-Sadr announced he would leave the political scene, loyal supporters acted on their own accord to express their disdain.

 “When events like the unfolding crisis in Iraq occur, the first step is analyzing the event from not just an American perspective, but on a larger international basis. We need to understand not only the implications of the resignation of this powerful Shiite cleric on Iraq-American relations, but also relations with the European Union, the Middle East, and the Arab League,” Miami Palmetto Senior High Junior and Vice President and Director of Training of Model UN, Owen Morris said. “There is a complex web surrounding the political crisis in Iraq. The American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the presence of ISIS in the Middle East, and Iran’s meddling in Iraq’s affairs have all coalesced into the brewing turmoil. While Sadr has officially left the Iraqi government, he is continuing to amass reinforcements from Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

In accordance with international relations, Morris goes on to mention how the United Nations could be of considerable help to the current crisis within Baghdad:

“The United Nations has a variety of tools it can use to address the conflict. The UN’s primary method is passing non-binding resolutions in the General Assembly…UN resolutions can be used to denounce the ongoing violence and violation of human rights,” Morris said. “For example, A UN resolution would be pertinent to denounce the militias backed by Iraq’s Shiite neighbor Iran, who continue to stoke violence and interfere in Iraqi politics. The UN Security Council… has the authority to impose economic sanctions on countries threatening peace and security. The UN has already placed sanctions on the jihadist Islamic State or ISIS which threatens peace in Iraq.”

The violence in Baghdad has spread to other areas of Central and Southern Iraq, and it remains uncertain when it may come to a halt.