Iraqi state television aired a controversial parliament session from Wednesday today after Sadrists accused the foreign minister's guards of manhandling Ahmed Massoudi, a Sadrist parliament member.
The session on Wednesday was to conduct the second reading of a contested law that would pass or reject a security agreement between the United States and Iraq. The agreement, which passed the cabinet on Sunday, was met with strong opposition from both Sadrist and Sunni legislators. Before it can be implemented and replace a United Nations mandate, which legalizes the U.S. led occupation of Iraq until the end of the year, the parliament must pass it with a simple majority.
Now that I've explained the basic boring ins and outs of the situation lets get to the fun stuff. The session made for great television a la Jerry Springer without the baby mamas or illicit affairs. Sadrists, as followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr are collectively called, demanded a new law of agreements before considering the long-term security agreement with the United States. Basically they want a law on how Iraq should handle international agreements.
Mahmoud al Mashhadani, the speaker of the parliament, ignored the requests and said they needed to move onto the second reading of the law which parliament would need to pass by the end of the year to implement the agreement. That's when things went south.
Sadrists stood waving their hands in the air and banging binders on the desk. Hassan Sneid, a member of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's party, tried to read the law over the banging and yelling before leaning back in his chair and throwing his arms up in surrender.
He was rendered silent by the uproar and Mashhadani yelled like an overwhelmed teacher unsure how to control his classroom. Parliament members smirked in their seats as women in long black Abayas, the traditional modest dress of religious Muslim women, banged on their desks and yelled
Then the brawl began. Massoudi, one of the Sadrist members, bum-rushed the podium aiming for where the Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Finance Minister Bayan Jaber and Sneid were seated. A guard got in the way and pushed Massoudi out of the way. Other legislators followed, crowding around the podiums yelling and surrounding the speaker and his deputies.
An army of personal guards surrounded Mashhadani and his two deputies and Zebari was rushed out by his guards with what seemed to be a smirk on his face. After Zebari, Sneid and Jabr left Massoudi swept the plastic flowers, papers and tissue boxes from the table with a few crazed swoops of his arms.
Mashhadani just stood there in the center of the crowd yelling as others yelled louder. First he demanded a recess of one hour then he gave up, encircled by angry legislators. For a few seconds his mouth gaped open.
"Ahhhhhh," he yelled. "Wait! Wait! we'll resume tomorrow at 10 a.m."
He gave a dismissive wave of his hand and his men maneuvered him out of the angry crowd.
The finale of the session was by far the most entertaining. A female Sadrist member shrouded in black walked up to the speakers podium and threw water bottles, notebooks and papers from the desk.
On Thursday the Sadrists banged their binders again but the second reading happened. Entertaining battles or not the parliament must decide by Monday whether or not to reject or agree to the security agreement.