Friday, November 8, 2019

Will Iraq’s PM Abdul Mahdi Put An End To The Protests?

(AP)

There were clashes between the security forces and protesters in Basra and Baghdad as there was more news that Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi wants to use force to end the demonstrations.

In Baghdad more people lost their lives as crowds battled with the security forces (ISF) over control of bridges in the center of the city. Protesters were attempting to remove concrete barriers across Shuhada Bridge when four people were shot and killed by the security forces. Starting November 6, demonstrators moved out of Tahrir Square to other sections of central Baghdad in an attempt to seize bridges crossing the Tigris River. That led to a series of confrontations that continued into the next day. This came as Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi’s spokesman General Abdul Karim Khalaf claimed that saboteurs were blocking roads and that they would be arrested. In the capital the crowds have searched for new targets to increase their pressure upon the administration as simply sitting in Tahrir Square and trying to get into the Green Zone had been done for weeks with little effect. Battling over the bridges appears to be a new tactic as the movement attempts to change and adapts.

Basra also saw confrontations and compromises. After the sit in in front of the Um Qasr port was broken up by force people returned to block the road there. Later in the day a deal was reportedly made with Basra’s governor to re-open the facility. This is welcomed news for the government as Um Qasr was completely shut down. The demonstrations also stopped oil being trucked from the Qayara field in Ninewa to Basra’s ports for the last few days. In Basra city, the security forces attacked the sit-in protest there using tear gas and live bullets. Two were said to have died. If the protest at Um Qasr is over that is a huge concession to the regime. Um Qasr is one of Iraq’s largest ports and its closure was having a detrimental effect upon the economy. Whatever the governor promised them is likely to pale in comparison to what the protest was achieving.

Last, there are more reports that Premier Abdul Mahdi is contemplating a large crackdown to put an end to the unrest. Al Aalem ran a story that some of the ruling parties agreed to end the demonstrations in two days. Earlier The National and the Arab News said that the prime minister wanted to turn to force as well. When the protests started in October they were initially met with a huge amount of violence by the police and elements of the pro-Iran Hashd who even deployed snipers against crowds. That helped propel the movement into its current form where there are sit ins across Baghdad and the south, and more and more groups from students to professionals to unions have joined in. It has also gotten the support of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Despite all that, the prime minister has apparently not learned anything and wants to revert to an iron fist. This will not only be another stain on this already discredited government, but against the country’s entire political system as well. Iraq already has a political elite that are unresponsive to the public that it is supposed to serve. If they were to stay in power only through the use of force it would make a sham out of the nation’s democracy.

SOURCES

Al Aalem, “Partisan plan to end protests … Sadrists left Tahrir Square and southern demonstrations mean to arrive in Baghdad,” 11/7/19

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Iraq’s key port closed again; 4 protesters killed in Baghdad,” Associated Press, 11/7/19

Bas News, “Baghdad: 4 Protesters Killed, 35 Injured on Thursday,” 11/7/19

Al Hadath, “#Iraq – Sources on the event: Injuries due to shooting to disperse the demonstrators in front of the Basra province building,” Twitter, 11/7/19

Al Hurra, “Civil disobedience halts the export of 90 thousand barrels of Iraqi crude,” 11/7/19
- “Iraqi activist assassinated in Maysan with a silencer,” 11/7/19

Iraq News Center, “Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf Prime Minister’s spokesman: Human Rights Commission “politicized”, it is broadcasting false figures of the victims of the demonstrations, depicting as if a massacre happened in Iraq where crimes and massacres “do not exist,”” Twitter, 11/7/19

Al Mirbad, “The port of Umm Qasr is reopened after an agreement between the demonstrators and the governor,” 11/7/19
- “Two people were killed and dozens of demonstrators were injured during the events in front of the Basra government headquarters,” 11/7/19

Moore, Jack and Aldroubi, Mina, “Iraq will use ‘new level of force to destroy’ anti-government protests,” The National, 11/6/19

Nas News, “Panic in Basra: troops chasing protesters in alleys after burning their tents,” 11/7/19

NINA, “Spokesman for the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces: Orders Issued To Arrest Saboteurs Who Cut Off Roads,” 11/7/19

Al-Salhy, Suadad, “Representatives of top Shiite cleric Al-Sistani urge followers to join protests in Iraq,” Arab News, 11/1/19

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