Supporters of Iraqi Shiite armed groups run from security forces after clashes during a protest against the election results in Baghdad, Nov 5, 2021. (Reuters)

August 31, 2022

Relative calm has been restored in Iraq after influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged all his supporters to leave the streets following a day of violent clashes that killed about 30 people.

Iran, which had closed its border and halted flights to its neighboring country, announced on Tuesday afternoon that Mehran, Qasr-e Shirin and Chazabeh land border crossings have been reopened, but urged citizens to remain cautious amid a fragile calm.

Clashes continued until Tuesday noon between the Sadrist forces with Iran-backed militia groups in major cities as well as near the Green Zone in central Baghdad — home to embassies and government buildings — before the cleric asked his supporters to stop the protests.

“I still believe that my supporters are disciplined and obedient. And if in the next 60 minutes they do not withdraw, as well as from parliament, then I will abandon these supporters,” he said. Following the announcement, supporters began leaving central Baghdad on vehicles, holding rifles and chanting while driving away.

He apologized to the Iraqi people and said shedding the blood of an Iraqi is Haram (forbidden), noting that “I expected the protests to remain peaceful, but I don’t want even peaceful protests any more… Had we dissolved armed groups, we wouldn’t be witnessing the current situation.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi praised Muqtada al-Sadr over his call for cessation of conflicts, and urged immediate dialogue among political groups.

The unrest initially broke out on Monday, August 29, hours after Sadr announced he was quitting politics.

Iran International

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Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.