|Pro-Iran crowd entered Tahrir Sq and led to stabbings (AFP)
A crowd of pro-Iran Hashd and their supporters marched into Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and attacked the protesters there. This might have been in response to a call from the Iranian leadership to exact revenge upon the people that burned its consulate in southern Iraq recently. It also has a precedent as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki used a similar tactic to try to disrupt demonstrations that were going on in the country back in 2011.
On December 5 a large pro-Tehran group entered Tahrir Square with the intent of disrupting the demonstrations. They began by chanting against the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Saddam, and waved Iraqi and Hashd flags. Some had pictures of fallen Hashd, while others had portraits of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Eventually some of its members wielded knives and began stabbing protesters. Up to 20 were stabbed during the day. An Interior Ministry official blamed Asaib Ahl Al-Haq for the act, and said that it also wanted to kidnap some of the activists, but failed. People have been kidnapped and murdered around Tahrir Square for weeks now. This was the newest act of intimidation unleashed by those that oppose the unrest, and might have come upon the orders of Tehran.
After the Iranian consulate in Najaf was burned by protesters for a third time, there was a call for retaliation. On November 3, the Iranian consulate in Karbala was set afire by a crowd, and then the same thing happened to its consulate in Najaf three times on November 27, December 1 and December 3. That happened because protesters have seen Tehran’s influence in Iraq as a nefarious one. After the December 1 fire an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called the protesters bastards and demanded that the Hashd deal with them. The stabbings then might have been in response to these statements. Iran was instrumental in organizing the shootings and bloody crackdown upon the protests in October when they started, and tried to keep Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi in power. Ordering its Iraqi allies to attack Tahrir Square would not be out of the ordinary, and Tehran has used counter protests to challenge its demonstrations at home as well.
Finally, this type of intimidation has been used before. Back in 2011 when the country was facing its first real demonstration movement Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered his followers to assault protesters who once again were based out of Tahrir Square. In February, a group of men beat and stabbed demonstrators while the Iraqi Security Forces stood by and watched. The governments of PM Maliki, PM Abadi and PM Abdul Mahdi all used force against the protests they faced. This new attack could have very well been ordered by Baghdad. Since it’s being supported by Iran this could have all been connected together.
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- “Video .. Iraqi protests burn the Iranian consulate in Najaf,” 11/27/19