Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announces retirement from politics
An influential Shiite cleric whose followers have been staging a sit-in outside Iraq’s parliament has announced his resignation from politics and the closure of his party offices.
It is unclear how Muqtada al-Sadr’s latest announcement will affect an ongoing sit-in by his supporters outside Iraq’s parliament building that has paralysed Iraqi politics for more than four weeks.
Shortly after the announcement on Monday, hundreds of his followers rushed to the government palace, which contains the main offices of caretaker prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, to protest there.
The cleric has announced his retirement from politics on previous occasions when circumstances aligned with his interests, but many fear this time could spur more escalation in an already fragile setting.
His latest statement appears to be a reaction to the retirement of Shiite spiritual leader Ayatollah Kadhim al-Haeri, who counts many of al-Sadr’s supporters as followers.
Al-Haeri said he would be retiring as a religious authority and called on his followers to support Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seen as a blow to al-Sadr.
Al-Sadr won the largest share of seats in the October elections but failed to form a majority government, leading to what has become one of the worst political crises in Iraq in recent years.
His bloc later resigned from parliament and his supporters last month stormed the parliament building in Baghdad. Al-Sadr has demanded that parliament be dissolved and early elections held.
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