Armed Clashes Erupt in Baghdad

Photo: AP [via PJ Media]

The Facts

  • The worst armed clashes in recent years erupted in Baghdad on Mon. night between forces loyal to Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the pro-Iran Coordination Framework Alliance (CFA), leaving at least 30 dead.

  • The violence began after al-Sadr announced earlier on Mon. his withdrawal from politics. Pro-Sadr protesters, who had already been occupying Iraq's parliament building in the heavily-guarded Green Zone since late July, pushed into the Republican Palace, clashing with CFA counter-protesters.

The Spin

Narrative A

Al-Sadr, who is known for stirring the pot in Iraqi politics, is playing with fire. Though popular with many in the Shiite community, his unruly supporters coupled with his fierce rhetoric are plunging Iraq into civil strife. His actions instigated the violence in Baghdad, and he should make way for the CFA which now has a clear and legal pathway to governance.

Narrative B

Despite al-Sadr's position against the West, he may be an unlikely asset to US interests, primarily due to his opposition to Iran. The future of the Sadrist movement depends on preventing Iran-aligned militias from expanding their influence within the state, and the West should make sure it at least tacitly accepts al-Sadr. As the expression goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Cynical narrative

Al-Sadr has already lost to Iran, and antics like this aren't going to change that. The firebrand cleric did quite well in last year's elections, but his inability to form a government has led to a significant loss of ground to Iranian-backed groups.

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