Iraq’s Sadrist camp refuses to join new government

Associate of Muslim leader Moqtada al-Sadr says new government to be formed by Mohammad Shia al-Sudani has a ‘clear subordination to militias’.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 2, 2022, supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr (image), protest against a rival bloc's nomination for prime minister, in the capital Baghdad's high-security Green Zone. - The movement led by firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr announced today its refusal to be part of the upcoming government set to be formed by Mohammad Shia al-Sudani. (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)
Supporters of Iraqi leader Moqtada al-Sadr hold up his picture at a protest in August 2022 in Baghdad, Iraq [File: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP]

Iraqi firebrand leader Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement announced its refusal to join a new government being formed by Prime Minister-designate Mohammad Shia al-Sudani.

Saturday’s announcement came two days after lawmakers elected Abdul Latif Rashid as Iraq’s new president, and he swiftly named al-Sudani as prime minister in a bid to end a year of political gridlock since the October 2021 elections.

“We stress our firm and clear refusal for any of our affiliates to participate … in this government formation,” Mohammed Saleh al-Iraqi, a close associate of al-Sadr, said on Twitter.

The 52-year-old Shia former minister al-Sudani has the backing of al-Sadr’s Iran-backed rivals, the Coordination Framework, which controls 138 out of 329 seats in the Iraqi legislature.

In June, al-Sadr ordered the 73 legislators in his bloc to resign, leaving parliament in the hands of the Framework, which includes representatives of the former paramilitary force Hashd al-Shaabi.

In his statement on Saturday, al-Iraqi alleged the incoming government has a “clear subordination to militias” and would “not meet the people’s aspirations”.

The Sadrist official said the movement refused to take part in any government led by al-Sudani “or any other candidate from among the old faces or those affiliated with the corrupt”.

“Anyone who joins their ministries does not represent us … Rather, we disavow them,” al-Iraqi said.

Snap elections were held last year following nationwide protests that erupted in October 2019 to decry endemic corruption, decaying infrastructure, and the absence of services and jobs for youth.

The stakes are high for the next cabinet with a colossal $87bn in revenues from oil exports locked up in the central bank’s coffers.

The money can help rebuild infrastructure in the war-ravaged country, but it can only be invested after legislators approve a state budget presented by the government, once formed.

Al-Sudani promised on Thursday to push through “economic reforms” that would revitalise Iraq’s industry, agriculture and private sector.

The prime minister-designate also promised to provide young Iraqis “employment opportunities and housing”.

Al-Sadr, who has the ability to mobilise tens of thousands of his supporters with a single tweet, has repeatedly demanded early elections, while the Coordination Framework wants a new government in place before any polls are held.

Tensions between the two rival Shia camps boiled over on August 29 when more than 30 al-Sadr supporters were killed in clashes with Iran-backed factions and the army in Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses government buildings and diplomatic missions.

Source: AFP