The momentum stalled after reforms swiftly promised by the prime minister failed to materialize — until Sadr stepped in. He gave Abadi a 45-day ultimatum to appoint a new government, after which Sadr would order his supporters to storm the Green Zone and do the job themselves.
To underline the threat, Sadrist supporters set up a tented protest camp just beyond the Green Zone’s fortified walls, echoing similar camps set up elsewhere in the region during the Arab Spring revolts – except that unlike those popular revolts, this one was underwritten by a private army.
When the deadline passed without result, instead of ordering an assault, Sadr strode into the Green Zone,
flanked by just a handful of aides, and declared that he was ready to sacrifice his life for the sake of the people’s demands.
The soldiers, ostensibly there to keep outsiders out, embraced him. The general in charge of security knelt and kissed his hand. Sadr’s aides erected a tent for him. Then he took a selfie with five of his closest cleric and militia friends showing him inside the tent inside the Green Zone, which was transmitted across Baghdad via social media accounts.
The message was clear: The political elites living in luxury behind their fortified walls cannot be protected from Sadr’s wrath, and even the security forces could not be counted on to defend them.
Sadr has demonstrated that “he has more popular support than those militias,” said Mohammed Naaina, a professor of political science at Baghdad University. “No party right now would dare clash with Moqtada Sadr because they know they won’t win.”
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