News / Middle East

    Sadrists Call for New Elections in Iraq

    Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (L) - whose political party called December 26, 2011, for dissolution of Iraq's parliament and new elections in another move that could escalate country's growing sectarian crisis - steps from an office building in Najaf, Ira
    Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (L) - whose political party called December 26, 2011, for dissolution of Iraq's parliament and new elections in another move that could escalate country's growing sectarian crisis - steps from an office building in Najaf, Ira

    A Look at Iraq's Muqtada al-Sadr

    • Al-Sadr was born in the early 1970s. He is the son of the late Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq Sadr. His father and two of his brothers were killed in 1999, reportedly by Iraqi agents.
    • The family leads a radical Shi'ite movement that finds its roots among the poor. The family has a lineage it says can be traced directly to the Prophet Muhammad.
    • Al-Sadr became a vocal critic of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq shortly after the 2003 invasion. He founded the Medhi Army militia which, by his design, was to protect the Shi'ite population in the holy city of Najaf. The Medhi Army had frequent skirmishes with U.S. forces.
    • Al-Sadr went into self-imposed exile in Iran in 2007, around the time that former U.S. President George W. Bush ordered a "surge" in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, to combat escalating violence.
    • Al-Sadr returned to Iraq in January 2011 and used his first speech in his home country to call for an end to the American occupation.
    • Although al-Sadr does not hold a government position, his Sadrist political bloc is part of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition government.

    The Iraqi political bloc led by anti-American Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has issued a call to dissolve Iraq's parliament and hold early elections, in a move that could escalate the country's growing sectarian crisis.

    The Sadrists said Monday that new elections are the only way to resolve Iraq's deepening political problems because the current government "cannot find solutions" for the issues that "threaten to divide" the country.

    Tensions are rising after Iraq's Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on suspicion of running a death squad. Hashemi denies the charge and fled to northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region to avoid detention. Maliki also asked parliament to fire Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.

    The political crisis comes amid a wave of attacks on the capital, Baghdad, by suspected al-Qaida-linked Sunni extremists.

    Al-Qaida's front group in the country, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility Monday for a series of bombings that killed about 70 people Thursday - the deadliest day in Iraq for months.

    The violence continued Monday as a suicide bomber set off a car bomb outside the Interior ministry. The blast killed seven people and wounded more than 30. Officials said five policemen were among the dead.

    Baghdad Explosion Map

    The recent violence has raised concerns about the Iraqi government's ability to secure the country as it tries to resolve a political crisis that erupted as the U.S. military completed a troop pullout earlier this month.

    Maliki has threatened to form a government without Hashemi's mainly Sunni-backed political party, Iraqiya, which is boycotting parliament and considering whether to pull out of the national unity government.

    The leaders of Iraq's Sunni minority have complained the Iraqi prime minister is monopolizing power in the hands of majority Shi'ites and excluding Sunnis from decision-making.

    Related video from Iraq

    Support from the Sadrist bloc helped Maliki to a second term following nine months of political infighting after an inconclusive election in March 2010. The latest turmoil threatens to wreck Iraq's fragile power-sharing deal that divides positions among the Shi'ite National Alliance, Iraqiya and the Kurdish bloc.

    On Sunday, Iraq moved closer to defusing a standoff between the government and 3,400 Iranian dissidents living in a camp northeast of Baghdad. The United Nations and the Iraqi government signed a deal to relocate the residents of Camp Ashraf to a temporary location while their refugee status is determined.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the residents will be moved to Camp Liberty, the former U.S. military base near the Baghdad International Airport. She welcomed the arrangement, saying it represents “significant progress on this issue.”

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the deal, which he said is the beginning of a peaceful and durable solution that respects both Iraq and its human rights obligations.

    The exiles are members of a paramilitary group that has tried to topple Iran's government and is listed as a terrorist group by the U.S.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

    Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.