Muqtada al-Sadr, a fiery cleric who counts both Iran and the United States as his opponents, retired from politics on Monday out of frustration at his opponents’ maneuvers against him. The move prompted his loyalists to rampage through the streets and storm the heavily fortified Green Zone, where government buildings and diplomatic missions are located.
“Essentially he let his followers have 24 free hours to do whatever they wanted,” said Sajad Jiyad, a fellow at the Century Foundation in New York.CNN alum Eleni Giokos tuesday. After at least 21 people were killed and 250 injured, Al-Sadr called on his followers to stand down.

“It sends a message to his rivals that he is a key player in the country,” Jiyad said. “Also that he has the potential to use violence as much as any other side.”

Here’s what you need to know about the chaos in Iraq:

Who is Muqtada Al-Sadr?

Al-Sadr, 48, is a cleric from a prominent Shia family that enjoys the support of millions across the country.

His father, Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, was a prominent Shiite figure who spoke out openly against Saddam Hussein and his ruling Baath party. He was assassinated in 1999, in an operation believed to be the work of Saddam’s forces or his loyalists. Young al-Sadr then inherited his father’s popularity.

Al-Sadr’s ability to reinvent his role in Iraqi politics and tap into a strong vein of Shia protest has helped him survive and outwit many rivals over the past two decades. His latest decision solidifies his place among the most influential personalities in Iraq.

What are its relations with foreign powers?

Al-Sadr is best known in the United States for his role as head of the Mahdi Army, which he formed in 2003 during the US invasion of Iraq to fight against coalition forces led by United States.

He fled to Iran during the US occupation of Iraq and returned to his country in 2011. Since then he has become one of the fiercest critics of Tehran’s influence in Iraq and has sought to counter it. He now presents himself as an Iraqi nationalist.

The cleric enjoys good relations with Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which view Iran as a regional security threat.

“The United States and the Gulf indirectly supported al-Sadr because of his stance against Iran, ignoring his strong historical ties to Iran and Iran’s ability to influence him,” Marsin Alshamary said. , researcher at the Harvard Kennedy School Middle East. Initiative.

What triggered Monday’s events?

The October 2021 parliamentary elections saw Iran-backed Shia blocs lose seats to the Sadrists. Despite his victory, al-Sadr failed to form a government in the face of opposition from Iranian-backed rivals.
So in June he withdrew his bloc from parliament in protest. Iran-backed blocs then tried to form a government without its backing in July, prompting Sadrists to stage protests outside parliament.

Al-Sadr’s announcement on Monday to retire from politics for good, however, came after the spiritual leader of his Iran-based movement, Grand Ayatollah Kadhim Al-Haeri, said he would step down as a religious authority. Shia and ordered his followers to pledge religious allegiance to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Besides being a ruler of Iran, Khamenei is also a Shia religious authority with followers beyond his borders.

Al-Sadr said he did not believe al-Haeri resigned of his own free will, suggesting he was pressured by Iran to do so in order to weaken him.

The resignation was an “unprecedented decision for an ayatollah”, Alshamary said. “[Al-Haeri] also criticized Sadr for the instability in Iraq…I think [his] statement was released under pressure from Iran.”

And after?

Al-Sadr’s withdrawal from politics, if sincere, could leave the remaining Shiites, many of whom are backed by Iran, to dominate the country’s politics.

“Public opinion in Iraq is strongly anti-Iranian, which means that any future election – if free and fair and with decent turnout – can usher in new political parties that represent the Iraqi street,” Alshamary said.

Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Tuesday that while an end to the violence is crucial to stopping the bloodshed, it does not mean the political crisis is over. He suggested holding early elections to break the deadlock.

Jiyad said there was not much hope for change. “If a snap election is going to have a negative effect, [the ruling elite] will postpone these elections and keep the situation as it is,” he said.

As politicians bicker, Iraq’s most pressing problems, such as power outages, remain unresolved, Jiyad said. “They misunderstand people’s patience in the face of enslavement,” he said. “I think protests will eventually break out.”

The summary

Saudi woman sentenced to 45 years in prison for tweets, rights group says

A Saudi court sentenced Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani to 45 years in prison for social media posts critical of the country’s leaders, Reuters reported, citing rights group DAWN. The move comes just weeks after another Saudi woman, Salma al-Shehab, was sentenced to 34 years for posting “false and biased rumors on Twitter”.

  • Background: Al-Qahtani was sentenced after Saudi Arabia’s specialized criminal court found her guilty of “using the internet to tear up the [country’s] social fabric” and “violate public order by using social media” under the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Cybercrime Act, according to a court document received by Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN). The media office of the Saudi government did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
  • why is it important: Human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized terrorism and cybercrime laws for allowing the government to suppress citizens. Both laws are vague to give Saudi authorities maximum discretion with little or no accountability for excesses, according to DAWN. β€œIn the al-Shabab and al-Qahtani cases, Saudi authorities used abusive laws to target and punish Saudi citizens for criticizing the government on Twitter,” said Abdullah al-Aoudh, research director for the Saudi Arabia region. Gulf to DAWN.

US Navy blocks Iran from capturing US drone in Persian Gulf

The US Navy prevented an Iranian ship from capturing a US maritime drone in the Persian Gulf overnight from Monday to Tuesday local time in what a senior US commander called a “gross” and “unwarranted” incident. Iran’s Nour News Agency, which is affiliated with the Supreme National Security Council, said: “These types of ships…can be the source of unpredictable maritime accidents due to the possibility of interruption of navigational communications.” .

  • Background: As US forces in the region transited international waters on Monday, they saw an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy support vessel towing a US-operated maritime drone, also known as the unmanned surface vessel name Saildrone Explorer, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said. After the Iranians attached a line to the drone, US forces communicated directly with the Iranians to tell them they wanted to recover the drone. When the United States responded with a ship and a helicopter, the Iranian ship disconnected the drone’s tow line and left the area four hours later.
  • Why is it important: The incident comes at a critical time in relations between Iran and the United States. Negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are at a delicate stage and US officials have expressed some optimism about the latest efforts. However, they pointed out that gaps remained between the two sides.

Iran says it seeks stronger safeguards in nuclear deal

Iran needs stronger guarantees from Washington to revive a 2015 nuclear deal, its foreign minister said in Moscow on Wednesday, adding that the UN’s atomic watchdog should drop its “politically motivated investigations” into Tehran’s nuclear work, Reuters reported.

  • Background: After 16 months of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on August 8 that the EU had presented a final offer to break a stalemate on the revival of the agreement. It was Hossein Amir-Abdollahian’s third trip to Moscow as foreign minister. The semi-official Fars news agency reported that the main subject of the visit would be the Ukrainian crisis.
  • Why is it important: Amir-Abdollahian’s comment comes as Iran considers Washington’s response to a European Union-drafted final text that aims to break an impasse in attempts to revive the 2015 nuclear pact.

What is the trend

Saudi Arabia: #Orphans_of_Khamis_Mushait

Images of men in uniform and plainclothes apprehending and violently beating women at a suspected orphanage have gone viral in Saudi Arabia.

The hashtag #Orphans_of_Khamis_Mushait was the main trend on Twitter in the kingdom on Wednesday, overtaking another hashtag celebrating the 37th birthday of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The men can be seen handcuffing a woman’s feet as she struggles to free herself. CNN has not verified the authenticity of the video.

The government of the southern region of Assir, where the town of Khamis Mushait is located, issued a statement saying that a committee would be formed to investigate the case “with reference to videos and images circulating on social networks. showing an incident” in a social service. house in Khamis Mushait.

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