Firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warned Wednesday that Iraq could turn into “another Syria” if the government does not resign.
“If Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi does not resign, Iraq could turn into another Syria or Yemen,” al-Sadr said on Twitter.
Syria fell into a bloody civil war in 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Yemen has also been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country.
Al-Sadr went on to warn that Abdul-Mahdi’s refusal to step down “will not cease blood”.
“I will not take part in any alliance in the future to form a government,” he said.
Mass protests have rocked several Iraqi provinces since Friday against deep-seated corruption, high unemployment and lack of basic services.
More than 80 people have been killed and more than 3,600 others injured in the unrest.
On Monday, al-Sadr called on the Iraqi premier to quit and to hold early election, but Abdul-Mahdi replied that he would resign if al-Sadr agreed with the leader of the Al-Fatah coalition Hadi al-Amiri – the two largest blocs in parliament — to form a new government.
Anger has been building in Iraq in recent years due to rising unemployment and rampant corruption. Many people in the country have limited access to basic services such as electricity and clean water.
According to World Bank figures, Iraq’s youth unemployment is around 25%. It is also ranked the 12th most-corrupt country in the world by several transparency organizations.
Read more: Al-Sadr says Iraq could turn into 'another Syria'