Thursday, November 7, 2019

Battle Of The Bridges In Baghdad As Protests Expand To Economic Targets in South Iraq

Stand off in Baghdad (Reuters)


Protests in Iraq took another twist on November 6. In Baghdad people expanded from the two bridges immediately by Tahrir Square to several more. In southern Iraq demonstrators went after more political and economic targets.

A battle for control of bridges began in Baghdad. Originally, protesters constantly tried to cross the Jumhuriya Bridge that goes from Tahrir Square to the Green Zone. Later they expanded to Al-Senak Bridge that leads to the Iranian Embassy. Now Al-Ahrar, Al-Shuhada, and several other bridges across the Tigris River are all being contested with the security forces trying to push the crowds back. That led to a doctor being killed who was treating a wounded demonstrator. While people were marching to one of the bridges they went pass the Central Bank of Iraq and the Rafidain Bank offices. The security forces (ISF) thought they would start protesting outside and had the employees exit the buildings. The ISF then started shooting in the air to break up the protesters and accidentally killed two bank workers. The protest movement in the capital has been looking for new avenues to pressure the government. Gatherings at Tahrir Square and the futile attempts to get into the Green Zone had played out. New tactics needed to be figured out and that has led to the push upon the bridges. With a month into the unrest and the regime not offering any real structural changes the movement has to adapt.

Trying to find new targets is happening in southern Iraq as well. For several days there was a sit in in front of Um Qasr port in Basra, which was broken up yesterday. Now people were back. The road to the Khor al-Zubayr port has also been blocked, which has largely ended oil shipments from the Qayara field in Ninewa. Truck drivers told Iraq Oil Report they didn’t want to work because of the protests. Almost all of the government offices and some businesses have been shut down in Nasiriya for a few days now, including the South Oil Company and the entrance to the Nasiriya refinery. The Shanfiya refinery in Qadisiya is also facing similar action. Finally, two people were killed November 5 during clashes with the security forces outside the Karbala government building, which was then burned on November 6. The south contains most of Iraq’s largest oil fields and ports, which is the country’s economic lifeblood. Going after these sites is a natural means of persuasion. As things become stalemated, cutting the ports and energy industry might increase because it would effectively shut down most of the economy.

On the political front Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi is digging in to preserve his job. In a speech yesterday he said the government could only be replaced by a no confidence vote by parliament. He has also rejected calls for early elections. His spokesman also continued with ridiculous statements like claiming the security forces have not shot at a single person, and that the Internet was shut down because it was used to spread hate by the protesters. With the backing of Iran, the Kurdish parties and the Fatah alliance the premier has felt more emboldened and unwilling to step down. There are stories that he wants to unleash the security forces and crush the protests as a result. This is the reason why the demonstrators are trying to find new sites to go after to push Baghdad more.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Iraq PM sees power clipped by rivals amid pro-Iran pressure: sources,” 11/6/19

Associated Press, “Clashes in southern Iraqi city of Karbala kill 2 protesters,” 11/6/19

Baghdad Post, “Protesters shut down Dhi Qar oil company,” 11/6/19
- “Reports of the death and injury of employees of the Central Bank and Rafidain security forces fire,” 11/6/19

Bas News, “(Video) dead protesters in Baghdad and burning the Karbala province building,” 11/6/19

Iraq Newspaper, “Now the execution of a doctor at the Martyr’s Bridge as he treated the injured in the square of the demonstrations with a bullet to the head and battles arrived to Morocco Street and the funeral of the dead in Karbala,” 11/6/19

Iraq Oil Report, “Protests force first oil field shut-in,” 11/6/19

Jalabi, Raya, Aboulenein, Ahmed, “Iraqi security forces break up protests in Battle of the Bridges,” Reuters, 11/6/19

Kurdistan 24, “Iraq protesters block key oil refineries as demonstrations continue,” 11/6/19
- “Iraqi security use live rounds to disperse protestors in Baghdad, witnesses say,” 11/6/19

Al Maalomah, “Jadriyah Bridge closed to Karrada in central Baghdad,” 11/6/19

Al Mada, “Abdul Mahdi: dismissal of the government requires the approval of parliament,” 11/6/19

Al Mirbad, “Abdul Karim to Al-Mirbad: The Internet was used during the demonstrations to spread hatred and was therefore stopped,” 11/6/19
- “Khalaf to Al-Mirbad: For the last 25 days, security forces did not fire a single shot because of tight control,” 11/6/19

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

Nasiriya TV, “Continued closure of the tax and retirement departments for the third day,” 11/6/19
- “Education and Agriculture Departments and the Housing Fund are closed for the third day,” 11/6/19
- “Government banks suspend business in Dhi Qar,” 11/6/19
- “Work stopped at the office of elections and nationality and work in Dhi Qar,” 11/6/19

Shafaaq News, “Protesters surround a port in southern Iraq,” 11/6/19

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