| 24 April 2024, Wednesday |

Iraqi Army Denies Defections: We Stand at Equal Distance from People

The Iraqi Defense Ministry denied on Monday reports of defections in the military.


The army and all its members are in service of the people and they stand at an equal distance from them, it said in a statement.


Social media posts had claimed that a military infantry unit had defected and joined protesters in Baghdad.


The security forces are bound by duty to protect the protesters and public and private properties, added the statement.


They are bound to prevent any security breach and block attempts by a fifth column to stir unrest, it continued.


Tensions are high in Iraq after the pro-Iran Coordination Framework announced that it would stage a protest near Baghdad’s highly-fortified Green Zone on Monday afternoon.


Iraq was plunged in political chaos after supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed parliament, also in the Green Zone, to protest against the Coordination Framework’s pick of the new prime minister. They have since announced an open-ended sit-in in the area.


The development is the latest twist in the tussle for power between the Sadrists and the Framework.


Tensions have been high since October parliamentary elections saw Sadr’s movement emerge as the biggest bloc with 74 of parliament’s 329 seats and the Iran-backed factions’ share slump to 17 from a previous 48.


After failing to overturn the result in the courts, the Iran-backed factions set about stymying Sadr’s efforts to form a government that would include his Kurdish and Sunni Arab allies but exclude groups he described as corrupt or loyal to Tehran.


Despite their diminished numbers in parliament, the Iran-aligned groups managed to frustrate Sadr by denying the two-thirds quorum needed to elect a Kurdish head of state – the first step towards forming a government.


Frustrated at the deadlock, Sadr instructed his lawmakers to quit parliament in June. The move ceded dozens of seats to the Coordination Framework, meaning it could try to form a government of its choosing, though this would risk Sadr’s wrath.


Eyeing a comeback, Sadr rival former Premier Nouri al-Maliki put himself forward to be prime minister – a post that must go to a Shiite in Iraq’s political system – but retreated after Sadr criticized him on Twitter.


Sadr’s rivals then floated another candidate, Mohammed Shiya al-Sudani, seen by Sadr’s supporters as a Maliki loyalist. This step appears to have been the final straw for Sadr supporters, igniting the protests.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat