Protesters stormed Iraq’s parliament Saturday in a dramatic culmination of months of demonstrations, casting uncertainty over the tenure of the country’s prime minister and the foundations of the political system laid in place after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.And what is it, exactly, that the former firebrand al-Sadr and his followers want?
Security forces declared a state of emergency in the Iraqi capital after demonstrators climbed over blast walls and broke through cordons to enter Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, also home to ministries and the U.S. embassy. Many were followers of Iraq’s powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has been urging his supporters onto the streets.
Lawmakers fled the building in panic, with some berated and struck as they left. Others were trapped in the basement for hours, too afraid to face the crowds who complain that the country’s political class is racked by corruption.
Street protests began last summer, when tens of thousands demonstrated against corruption and a lack of services. They were reinvigorated when Sadr put his weight behind them earlier this year, calling for Iraq’s government to be replaced by technocrats.
Under immense pressure, Abadi has tried to reshuffle his cabinet and meet the demonstrators’ demands. But he has been hampered by a deeply divided parliament, and sessions have descended into chaos as lawmakers have thrown water bottles and punches at one another.So what al-Sadr wants is what self-proclaimed "centrists" in the US always say they want, an end to partisan squabbling and a technocratic government focused on concrete results.
Maybe we could lend them Michael Bloomberg; I hear he's restless in retirement and might want to get back into politics.