Iraqi PM sacks commander after Green Zone breach

Iraqi PM sacks commander after Green Zone breach

BAGHDAD – Agence France-Presse
Iraqi PM sacks commander after Green Zone breach

Followers of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gather at Grand Festivities Square within the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, May 1, 2016 - REUTERS photo

Iraq’s premier sacked the commander of special forces in Baghdad’s Green Zone after protesters breached the fortified area over the weekend, a military statement said on May 4.

The removal of Staff Lieutenant General Mohammed Ridha may indicate that security forces will take a harder line against demonstrators who are expected to protest later this week.

Angry demonstrators, most of them supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, broke into the Green Zone and stormed parliament on April 30 in an unprecedented security breach.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued an order “for the relief of special forces division commander Mohammed Ridha,” who will be replaced by Major General Karim Aboud al-Tamimi, a statement from Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said.

Ridha kissed Sadr’s hand when he entered the Green Zone in March during a sit-in organized by the cleric, who has demanded the government carry out reforms and also supports the change of the cabinet with technocrats, which Abadi had proposed in order to fight the corruption claims. But the issue has turned into a political crisis with some ministers and lawmakers supporting them refusing to leave the post. 

Angry protesters broke into the area after lawmakers again failed to approve new ministers proposed by Abadi.

Abadi has called for the current cabinet of party-affiliated ministers to be replaced by a government of technocrats.

But his efforts have been opposed by powerful political parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.

The removal of Ridha may be a sign that security forces that stood by as demonstrators broke into the Green Zone will now take action against them if they attempt to do so again.

Demonstrators are expected to protest on May 6 and may attempt to re-enter the Green Zone, which is heavily guarded and home to Iraq’s main government institutions as well as various embassies, including those of the United States and Britain.