"The Iranians always have a plan," but the protests pose the biggest threat to the Iraqi political establishment since the time of ISIS[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] International Affairs [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
Tuesday 12 November 2019 15:46
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
[size=17]Iraqi security forces and pro-Iranian militias are firing at crowds of protesters in an attempt to drive them out of central Baghdad and put an end to six weeks of demonstrations that have confronted the political system unprecedented since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.
On Saturday, police recaptured three bridges on the Euphrates River leading to the fortified "Green Zone" and encircling Tahrir Square, where protests pile up.
On Rashid Street near the square, police set ablaze the tents set up by volunteer doctors to treat wounded protesters.
The latest clashes killed at least six people, four of them shot and two with heavy tear gas, fired directly at the protesters' heads or bodies, according to Amnesty International.
The organization reports that 264 people who participated in the demonstrations since 1 October have been killed, while the information of the "High Commission for Human Rights" in Iraq to 301 deaths and 15 thousand wounded.
These protests and the brutal attempt by the government to disperse them represent the greatest threat to the authority of the Iraqi political establishment since ISIS's invasion of Baghdad in 2014. In contrast, the status quo poses a greater threat in many ways, because ISIS posed an existential threat to the Shiite majority that did not find it. Despite the greed and incompetence of governing, the ruling elite seemed to be supported.
The killing of these large numbers of demonstrators mimics the approach of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in 2013 while suppressing anti-coup demonstrations and toppling the elected government.
By contrast, this violent response was not used to suppress the 2016 street protests in Baghdad, when protesters invaded the Green Zone, or to crush those in Basra in 2018 when government offices and parties were burned down.
In contrast, the last month and a half saw frequent use of snipers who fired indiscriminately at demonstrations or targeted local protest leaders. Those behind the killings may be members of the highly divided government security forces and some factions of the Popular Mobilization militia, known for their loyalty to Iran.
In this regard, the party responsible for planning the crackdown on demonstrations by force is embodied in the Iranian leadership, in particular Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC's Quds Force and responsible for regional Iranian policy.
On the other hand, it is still unclear why General Qassem Soleimani resorted to this approach since the first demonstration on 1 October in Tahrir Square was small. For months, NGOs organized by the demonstration failed to mobilize large numbers of people.
On the other hand, these small gatherings, which did not participate in many, turned into mass demonstrations similar to the popular uprising because the authorities adopted an unprecedented policy of "shooting with intent to kill."
During the early days of the protests, organizers told The Independent that they were initially struck by what had happened, and their tendency to believe that the violence on the first day that killed at least 10 people was probably an overreaction and would not be repeated. But the killing of protesters continued despite its adverse results.
The day after the first wave of assassinations, groups of young demonstrators, who were never afraid, gathered around the area. The authorities have stepped up the crisis by declaring a 24-hour curfew and shutting down the Internet as a collective punishment for the 7 million people living in Baghdad, a move that has increased public support for protesters.
[rtl]At the same time, militia groups professing allegiance to Iran sent their black-clad elements to television channels that covered the demonstrations in order to destroy their computers and studios. They also assaulted injured protesters inside hospitals, kidnapped and threatened journalists, doctors and anyone supporting the demonstrations.[/rtl]
These steps are unlikely to be part of a ready-made plan prepared by former pro-Iranian militias on their own.
A few days earlier, The Independent spoke to a number of leaders of these elements, whose groups were found to have sent snipers to shoot at street demonstrations.
Although they later stated that they had long discovered a hidden conspiracy of the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to exploit demonstrations to overthrow the political system in Iraq, they did not say anything about it during the interview. "Iran wants a solution (in the Iranian-American confrontation) but it cannot say it itself," said Qais al-Khazali, leader of the powerful militia faction, Asaib Ahl al-Haq. He reduced the possibility of war between the United States and Iran.
In a separate interview, the leader of the Sayyid al-Shuhada Brigades, Abu Alaa al-Wala'i, said he was most concerned about the Israeli drone attack on an armory inside one of his bases on the outskirts of Baghdad.
On the other hand, the speed and consistency in the reaction of pro-Iranian militia groups, or their exaggerated response to the demonstrations, indicates a detailed contingency plan.
"The Iranians always have a plan," says one Iraqi commentator.
The militias did not act alone. There are no clear boundaries between these militias and government security services. These militias may number up to 85,000 people who are paid by the Iraqi government and headed by Faleh al-Fayyad, the government's national security adviser.
The interior minister is always chosen from the ranks of the Iranian-backed Badr Organization. For example, the Ministry's Emergency Response Section has always sent snipers to shoot at demonstrators. In the weeks following the first violent march, the repression escalated in Baghdad and southern Iraq as a whole.
One day, snipers assassinated 18 people in the holy Shiite city of Karbala. Survivors were arrested at checkpoints suddenly set as they tried to escape through the alleyways. A complete repression apparatus for kidnapping, enforced disappearance and intimidation has also been put in place, and such practices are unlikely to stop. The pro-Iranian personalities and institutions within the Iraqi political system are becoming increasingly dominant.
In contrast, critics of the status quo remain silent, including the popular nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr, whose coalition is the largest gathering in parliament. On Friday, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on security forces to refrain from using "excessive violence" but his statement did not appear to have had any impact.
The crisis has also made Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who has been prime minister for a year, seem weak. It is clear that the Iraqi political class together decided to suppress the demonstrations in order to preserve their interests.
In short, the demonstrators roaming the streets resemble French students at the events of 1968 in France, in terms of the extremism of their demands and their lack of clarity on the way to implement these demands. They also show their inability to articulate the alternative they want to replace the current corrupt and ineffective government. On the other hand, those in charge of repression are drowning to the point where their retreat is impossible, and they generally do not show any intention of doing so.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]