Iran shuts border to Iraq and halts flights due to deadly violence in Baghdad

Iran shut its land borders to Iraq and suspended flights to the country Tuesday over deadly clashes in Baghdad sparked by a key Shiite cleric’s announcement that he’s quitting politics, per AP.

The big picture: At least 20 people have died in the clashes following Muqtada al-Sadr’s resignation announcement Monday, AP reports.

A supporter of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr carries bullet casings and a spent shotgun shell in the capital Baghdad, on August 29.
A supporter of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr with bullet casings and a spent shotgun shell in the capital Baghdad, on Monday. Photo: Ahmad Al-rubaye/AFP via Getty Images
  • Iraq has endured months of political deadlock that has prevented the formation of a new government and sparked worries of a potential civil war.

Driving the news: Hundreds of protesters loyal to al-Sadr stormed the Republican Palace — where the Iraqi cabinet meets — in Baghdad’s Green Zone on Monday following Al-Sadr’s announcement, the Guardian notes.

  • Security forces clashed with the protesters in an effort to repel them, firing live bullets and tear gas, according to CNN.
  • Outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi suspended all meetings of the government until further notice and pressed al-Sadr “to help call on the demonstrators to withdraw from government institutions.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq on Monday issued a statement calling the developments “an extremely dangerous escalation.”

  • “State institutions must operate unimpeded in service of the Iraqi people, under all circumstances and at all times. Respect for constitutional order will now prove vital,” UNAMI added.
  • “UNAMI also calls on all (political) actors to work towards de-escalating tensions and resort to dialogue as the only means to resolve differences. Iraqis cannot be held hostage to an unpredictable and untenable situation. The very survival of the State is at stake.”

What they’re saying: National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby called the reports of unrest “disturbing” during a call with reporters Monday, adding that “above all, we urge those involved to remain calm, to abstain from this violence and pursue peaceful avenues of redress.”

  • “I’ve seen some reporting out there about our embassy being evacuated and under threat. I just want to let you know those reports are false,” he added.
  • “Ensuring the safety of US government personnel, American citizens and the security of our facilities remains our highest priority, but there’s no evacuation going on at the embassy, no indication that that’s going to be required at this time.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the increased death toll and with news of the Iranian government response.

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