From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Hundreds of supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr demonstrate in Baghdad to demand electoral reform ahead of a planned provincial vote in September:

By John Lee.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has accepted the resignations of the ministers of oil, transport, housing and construction, water resources and industry, as well as interior, which had been previously announced.

Abadi has previously called for the cabinet to include technocrats, a call later taken up by Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, but has faced major opposition from powerful political parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.

(Sources: Middle East Eye, AFP)

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Thousands of Iraqis have defied a protest ban and rallied in the heart of the capital, Baghdad, to demand an end to sectarianism and corruption.

Al Jazeera‘s Natasha Ghoneim reports.

By Mohammed A. Salih for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

In a dramatic shift, 13 years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr, the once-ignorable Shiite cleric, has reinvented himself as the central figure in a chaotic push to reform the country’s broken political system. After Sadr’s supporters stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone late April, many wonder what his ultimate aim might be.

Sadr’s political initiation began in a remarkable fashion: when his supporters were accused of murdering Abdul Majid al-Khoei, a promising rival Shiite cleric, the day after Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled in April 2003. Loathed by US political and military officials and underestimated by Iraqi politicians returning from exile, Sadr was for years considered nothing more than a menace. The mainstream Western press often described him as a “firebrand” or “radical.”

Nevertheless, capitalizing on the spiritual legacy of his father and uncle, Mohammed Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr and Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr, both senior Shiite clerics executed by Hussein, Muqtada’s political fortunes rose steadily, making himself an actor to be reckoned with. In April 2004, he led a major rebellion against the US-led coalition that he considered an occupation force.

Today, amid popular demand for change in Iraq, Sadr has put his political capital on the line in advocating an overhaul of the Iraqi political system. “Muqtada has clearly enhanced his status by adopting a populist, non-sectarian stance at a time when Iraqis are peculiarly conscious of the corrupt and dysfunctional nature of their government because there is not sufficient oil revenue to cover expenditure,” said Patrick Cockburn, a Middle East correspondent for the British Independent and author of the book “Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia revival and the Struggle for Iraq.”

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq’s Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr is putting pressure on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to carry out reforms to fight corruption.

Sadr has managed to rally a huge number of angry Iraqi protesters who are demanding Abadi introduce reforms to put an end to corruption.

Last month, Sadr demanded Iraqi politicians be replaced with technocrats and the country’s powerful Shia militias be incorporated into the ministries of Defence and Interior.

In the following weeks he called on his supporters to take to the streets, and each Friday their numbers grew.

While Iraq’s political leadership has proposed multiple reform plans, some echoing Sadr’s own demands, progress in parliament has been slow.

So, how far will Sadr go to push for change? And is this only about fighting corruption?

Presenter: Mike Hanna

Guests: 

  • Renad Mansour – Fellow at the Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies.
  • Saad Jawad – Professor of political Science at the London School of Economics.

By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The popular mobilization forces have been widely controversial in Iraq since their inception in June 2014. Public opinion has focused on the legitimacy of these irregular forces, their activities and the possible illegal killings committed by them in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).

In light of the dire need for these forces in the ongoing conflict on the one hand, and lapses in disciplined behavior among their ranks on the other, Iraqis remain conflicted about them.

Reports occasionally appear about violations and abuses by the mobilization forces on the battlefield and off it. At the same time, however, one cannot deny their contribution to hindering IS’ progress toward the central and southern areas of the country.

In addition, the forces have also recently made offensive advances against IS, improving their reputation in the public’s eye and in the Iraqi political arena.

The popular mobilization forces were formed after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a fatwa calling on all those able to take up arms and volunteer in the security forces in the fight against IS. The forces were to fall under the umbrella of the state’s security services and within its legal frameworks and practices.

In the course of events, however, some of these groups embarked on a different path, operating independently, outside judicial and governmental monitoring and supervision, somewhat along the lines of Iran’s Basij, which were founded in 1979 at the directive of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

One of Iraq’s most powerful Shia leaders has joined a chorus of calls for a national unity government.

Moqtadr Al Sadr says Iraq risks spiraling into chaos without a change of leadership.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan reports from Baghdad.

Muqtada al-Sadr: Supporters of the current projects of martyrdom and review in order to show the world “listed” and “promised” to Nrhb “enemy.” Palm – the leader of the Sadrist movement, Mr. “Muqtada al-Sadr,” The call for the review of…

By Harith Hasan for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The announcement of Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist movement, that he is retiring from politics triggered many reactions from political and popular circles in Iraq, as well as a lot of discussions and speculations about his motives.

For some, the decision put an end to the Sadrist movement as a force in the political process. Others considered his move to be a repeat of earlier similar steps to “retire” or “isolate,” that he soon reversed.

The speech he gave on Feb. 18, two days after his decision to retire, suggests that Sadr’s step was not a complete abandonment of politics, but perhaps a way to reposition himself politically and electorally.

Sadr’s speech was political par excellence. He talked about the failures of the Iraqi political process and sharply criticized Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom he called a dictator and a tyrant. He also criticized parliament, which he considered a weak authority with members seeking personal gains only.

Sadr expressed surprise at the support Maliki is getting from the “East and West,” a reference to Iran and the United States. This may add credibility to reports that Iran is pressuring Shiite politicians to support Maliki for a third term, but it may also mean that he wanted to anticipate such pressure by publicly distancing himself from the block’s decisions, which could be a way to circumvent such pressure in the future.

Sadr justified the decisions to dissolve his political offices and disengage from the Ahrar political bloc by claiming that his goal is to maintain the legacy of the Sadr family and its religious and moral status. This was a sign that Sadr was angered by actions of Sadrist bloc members and by reports of their involvement in financial or political corruption.

By Ali Abdel Sadah for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The armed clashes between the Mahdi Army and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq that took place in east Baghdad at the beginning of August aroused concerns that armed conflicts might prevail in the streets once again.

On Aug. 3, 2013, in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, gunmen from both sides clashed following a verbal altercation between Jassem al-Hijami, a leader in the Mahdi Army, and Sami Salem, a leader in Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, a lieutenant from the Sadr City police forces, Sajad Abdali, said, “Sami Salem opened fire on Hijami, killing him on the spot. Later, militants from the Mahdi Army attacked Salem and took him to an unknown destination. The kidnapping of a leader from Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq sparked clashes between the two sides, which ended in the death of a member of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq.”

The news of the clashes in Sadr City reached westward toward the predominantly Shiite region of Hurriya, which is also home to supporters of the Mahdi Army and some advocates of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq.

Armed clashes broke out in Hurriya, but did not last long. They were settled according to tribal traditions, which impose financial payments known as “fedya,” or bloody money, to be paid to the families of the dead.

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, led by Qais al-Khazali, is one of the groups that defected from the Sadrist movement. The group is at loggerheads with the Mahdi Army, which is seen as the military wing of the Sadrist movement.

The head of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr (pictured), described Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq as “a murderous group without any religion.” Meanwhile, Asaib Ahl al-Haq said that the movement’s accusations serve as “an attempt to carry out a political takeover.”

Reports claimed that on Aug. 5, 2013, Sadr closed his private office in the holy city of Najaf, located southwest of Baghdad, to protest the clashes.

However, in an official statement issued on Aug. 6, 2013, Sadr said he is withdrawing from political work as he “does not wish to be part of a conspiracy against the Iraqi people.” Sadr’s withdrawal suggests that controlling the Sadrist movement’s military wing has become a difficult task.