Al-Sadr withdraws support from Abadi and his alliance

Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 January 2018

Al-Sadr withdraws support from Abadi and his alliance

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s influential cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr has withdrawn his support for Prime Minister Haider Abadi because of his alliance with the Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) factions.
Abadi’s alliance “paves the way for the return of the corrupt,” Al-Sadr declared on Sunday.
Hours earlier, Abadi formally signed an agreement with the leaders of the PMU to form a wide joint electoral alliance called “The Victory of Iraq” to participate in the parliamentary and provincial election scheduled to be held in May.
Al-Sadr has expressed his support for Abadi more than once and said he would back his candidacy for a second term. But the deal made on Saturday between Abadi and the commanders of pro-Iranian armed factions including Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, Kataib Hezbollah and Badr Organization, has upset him.
Al-Sadr has called them “shameless militias” and considers the deal signifies a return to sectarian confinement.
“I condolence my people … due to the abhorrent political agreements … which pave the way for the return of the corrupt again (to the government),” Al-Sadr said.
“We were offered to join them (Abadi’s alliance) and we totally refused this. I am surprised by the attitude of the brother-in-law, who we thought was the first patriotic preacher and advocate of reform.
The “Victory of Iraq Alliance” which, headed by Abadi, consists of at least 28 political and armed factions including the most powerful Shiite groups in addition to the Sunni, Christian, Yazidi, Shabak and Turkmen armed factions, fought Daesh for the past three years under the umbrella of the PMU.
Al-Sadr, however, controls millions of votes, and represents the parliamentary power broker, which favors any candidate for prime minister in any government.
Gaining the backup of the PMU factions is crucial for Abadi to form a comfortable parliamentary majority to form the next government and avoid any serious security problems that the undisciplined armed factions could carry out to embarrass him.
Al-Sadr was planning to run for the election in a joint electoral alliance and was pushing Abadi to leave Da’awa Party, but Abadi has decided to join with the PMU groups and killed any hope of Al-Sadr backup.
“This (allying with the PMU) struck the (Al-Sadr and Abadi’s) project. We were saying that we are looking to build a patriotic project ... to establish a civil state, but see now what has happened,” a senior Sadrist leader and one of Al-Sadr negotiators told Arab News on condition of anonymity.
“All those (the leaders of the PMU) are thieves and killers. Where will this country head? How do we call to establish a civil state while it (the country) is led by armed factions?”

Lebanon president to chair crisis talks over weekend violence

Updated 1 min 11 sec ago

Lebanon president to chair crisis talks over weekend violence

  • The meeting will touch on “security developments” in the country
  • Lebanon has been without a government since outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s under-fire president is set to meet Monday with top security officials to discuss rare violence over the weekend that left hundreds wounded in the protest-hit country.

Michel Aoun will be joined by the care-taker ministers of the interior and defense as well as the chiefs of the military and security agencies in the early afternoon, his office said in a statement.

The meeting will touch on “security developments” in a country rocked since October 17 by unprecedented protests against a political class deemed incompetent, corrupt and responsible for an ever-deepening economic crisis.

It will also address “measures that need to be taken to preserve peace and stability,” the state-run National News agency (NNA) reported.

Demonstrators at the weekend lobbed stones, firecrackers and street signs at riot police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a flashpoint road near parliament.

Over the most violent weekend in three months of street protests, some 530 were wounded on both sides, according to a toll compiled by AFP from figures provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defense.

Lawyers and rights groups have condemned the “excessive” and “brutal” use of force by security forces.

Human Rights Watch accused riot police of “launching tear gas canisters at protesters’ heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque.”

Internal Security Forces, for their part, have urged demonstrators to abstain from assaulting riot police and damaging public or private property.
Protesters had called for a week of “anger” over the political leadership’s failure to form a new government even as the debt-ridden country sinks deeper into a financial crisis.

Lebanon has been without a government since outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29 in the face of popular pressure.

Political factions agreed on December 19 to appoint former education minister Hassan Diab as the new premier but have since squabbled over ministerial posts and portfolios.

Protesters have demanded a new government be comprised solely of independent experts, and exclude all established political parties.

The United Nations’ envoy to Lebanon pinned the blame for the violence on politicians.

“Anger of the people is understandable, but it is different from vandalism of political manipulators, that must be stopped,” Jan Kubis wrote on Twitter on Saturday.