Hundreds of followers of an Iraqi influential Shiite cleric stormed into Baghdad's Green Zone and parliament Wednesday, chanting anti-Iran slogans against a Tehran-backed prime ministerial nominee.
The protesters – some of whom were seen walking on tables, waving Iraqi flags and sitting in lawmakers' chairs – were followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, who seeks to curb the influence of the Islamic Republic in Iraqi politics.
On Monday, the Coordination Framework, a coalition of Shiite parties close to Iran, nominated Mohammed al-Sudani as the prime minister, a decision opposed by firebrand Shia cleric al-Sadr, whose party won last year’s general elections.
Protesters, who had forced their way into the Green Zone, which houses the parliament, after removing a number of concrete barriers, began making their way out of the parliament building when al-Sadr issued a statement on Twitter telling them their message had been received and "to return safely to your homes.
Addressing the protesters, the leader of the Sadrist movement, Saleh Muhammad al-Iraqi, said, "I stand in reverence and respect. It is a wonderful spontaneous and reformist popular message, thank you."
It was the largest protest since federal elections were held in October and the second time al-Sadr has used his ability to mobilize the masses to send a message to his political rivals this month.
The protest took place after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force Chief Esmaeil Gha’ani arrived in Baghdad, one day after Iran-backed groups nominated Sudani, and met with leaders of Shiite groups.