Shiite leader demands political reform in Iraq

Moqtada al-Sadr, who rose to prominence as a militia leader in the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, called on the Iraqi government to move forward on stalled reforms.

Hadi Mizban/AP
Supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr rally in Baghdad on Saturday; the influential cleric has called for the government to move on reforms.

Iraq's influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for government reform Saturday, demanding greater accountability and threatening to withdraw from the political process if his proposal is not accepted and the government does not show results within a year.

Al-Sadr's comments follow a slew of similar demands from Iraq's political and religious elite after months of stalled progress on a reform package Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proposed last summer.

Among a series of economic and political reforms, Al-Sadr called for Iraq's powerful Shiite militias to be formally incorporated into Iraq's existing security forces. This would also include Sadr's own militia, Saraya al-Salam, which was formed following the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State group in June 2014.

Al-Sadr also echoed al-Abadi's call this week for a Cabinet reshuffle. Al-Abadi proposed the reforms following widespread protests in Iraq last summer demanding better services and an end to corruption.

"Let it be known that the non-implementation of these items is a betrayal of Iraq and its people," al-Sadr said.

Iraq is engaged in a humanitarian and security crisis that erupted as the Islamic State group swept across the country. It is also battling a crippling economic crisis that threatens to further choke the government's ability to provide basic domestic services.

Earlier this month, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite cleric, also signaled his dissatisfaction with government inaction by suspending his Friday sermons. For more than a decade the sermons had offered guidance to Iraqi leadership that carried the respect of the Iraqi street, but in recent weeks al-Sistani himself complained about the repetitive nature of his messages.

"All these issues have been repeated endlessly until our voices became sore," he said in a speech in late January.

Once considered an indispensable powerbroker in Iraq, al-Sadr's political clout has waned recently as other Shiite militia leaders with closer links to Iran have grown in prominence following the collapse of the Iraqi security forces. As IS pushed has toward Baghdad, Shiite militias have filled the vacuum and have grown more powerful than the country's own security forces.

The Iraqi government-allied militias are now officially sanctioned and known as Popular Mobilization Committees. Many militias, such as al-Sadr's, trace their roots to the armed groups that battled U.S. troops after the 2003 invasion.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Shiite leader demands political reform in Iraq
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today