Chatham House
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Understanding Iraq’s Muqtada al-Sadr: Inside Baghdad’s Sadr City


After supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr storm the Iraqi parliament, a Chatham House survey of residents in Baghdad’s Sadr City gives a rare insight into the actions and motivations of the populist cleric.

Following their shock victory in the 2021 elections, the Sadrists claimed they were poised to push Iraq towards a new type of politics. But after nine months of failing to form a government, their leader, populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has seemingly given up and withdrawn from the government formation process. Instead, he called for mass protests, sent his followers to invade and occupy parliament, and demanded another election. In response, his opponents, Nouri al-Maliki and the Iran-aligned Popular Mobilization Forces, sent loyalists to Baghdad’s Green Zone, risking conflict between the two heavily armed sides.

Although it is still unlikely this will lead to a Shia civil war, there are increasing concerns about the lengths Sadr is willing go to. As one policymaker asked the authors, ‘can one man hold an entire country hostage?’

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