On The Brink

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Influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged his supporters to immediately withdraw from the capital’s government district, following a day of violent unrest that killed more than 30 people, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Al-Sadr’s supporters stormed the presidential palace in Baghdad’s “Green Zone” on Monday after the populist Shiite cleric announced his “final withdrawal” from Iraqi politics, a decision that risks deepening the ongoing political crisis in the country.

Iraq has been plagued by political paralysis since the October elections which saw al-Sadr’s bloc gain the most seats in parliament. The fiery cleric, however, was unable to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with other Shia parties, leaving Iraq without a government for nearly a year, the Wall Street Journal noted.

In June, he withdrew his lawmakers from the legislature and ordered his supporters to occupy parliament, which his opponents described as a “coup.”

Al-Sadr, who has been a vocal opponent of both US and Iranian involvement in Iraq, has called for early elections as well as the exclusion of political individuals who served in government positions after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Monday’s clashes were the most intense during a summer of unrest in Iraq. It prompted neighboring Iran and Kuwait to urge their citizens to leave the country and avoid traveling there.

Iran, meanwhile, closed its borders with Iraq, according to the Associated Press.

Analysts questioned whether the country will pull back from the brink or is headed deeper into violence that could threaten its two-decade experiment with democracy.

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