Al Sadr threatens with more protests if reforms blocked in Iraq

Influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr warns political leaders that they would face protests if they block government reforms

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr speaks during news conference in Najaf, south of Baghdad, March 22, 2016.

Influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr threatened Iraqi political party leaders on Friday that they would face protests if they block a government plan prepared by Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi in order to fight against corruption.

Sadr spoke in a Friday sermon delivered by a representative outside the gates of Baghdad's fortified Green Zone which houses government offices, parliament and embassies.

He also called on Abadi to announce a new cabinet lineup by Saturday that would see current ministers replaced by technocrats with no party affiliation to tackle systemic political patronage that has abetted bribery and embezzlement.

Sadr's followers began a sit-in a week ago outside the Green Zone to pressure the government to see through anti-corruption pledges. Abadi has shown a willingness to act but has been slow to deliver on a reshuffle announced in February.

Supporters of prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr pray during a protest against government corruption, in the streets outside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone in Iraq March 25, 2016.

Corruption is depleting the central government's financial resources at a time when revenues are declining due to lower oil prices and Abadi needs to ramp up funding for the US-backed war against the DAESH terrorists.

"If he brings a logical reform package to parliament and does not get enough votes, there will be a call to escalate protests against those who did not vote" for the proposed cabinet, said Sadr's envoy, Sheikh Asaad Al Nasiri.

"If (Abadi) does not announce a package that appeases the people, then we will have another stance we will announce tomorrow. We will not be content with a sit-in at the Green Zone," Nasiri added amid crowd chants of, "Yes, yes to Moqtada our leader!"

He did not mention a deadline which Sadr gave Abadi last month to implement reforms. The deadline expires next week.

Abadi has voiced concern that the Shiite street protests could spin out of control and put Iraq's security in danger when it needs to keep its focus on fighting DAESH.

TRTWorld, Reuters