By Harith Hasan, for Carnegie Middle East Center. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

On November 11, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani received Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the representative in Iraq of the United Nations secretary general.

Sistani welcomed a reform plan proposed by Plasschaert in response to weeks-long protests in Baghdad and southern Iraqi cities, and expressed his concern that “respective parties might not be serious about implementing real reforms.”

If those parties “were incapable or unwilling to make the required reforms,” Sistani continued, then “an alternative path should be considered.”

This was the strongest position conveyed by the cleric since the protests began. It led many Iraqis to wonder what the “alternative path” to which Sistani referred might be.

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(Source: Carnegie Middle East Center)

By Omar Sattar for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News

Is Iran trying to hijack Iraqi protesters’ demands?

In reaction to continuing mass protests that began Oct. 1, the Supreme Judicial Council is reviewing the Iraqi Constitution and will submit proposed amendments to parliament — though protesters fear that will only delay action on their demands.

Parliament has formed an Amendment Committee that is to complete its recommendations within four months, aiming to answer protesters’ demands for reforms to end corruption and the electoral quota system, which is based on religious and ethnic affiliations.

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The following is attributable to US State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus:

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo spoke [on Tuesday] with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi.

Secretary Pompeo emphasized that peaceful public demonstrations are a fundamental element of all democracies. The Secretary deplored the death toll among the protesters as a result of the Government of Iraq’s crackdown and use of lethal force, as well as the reports of kidnapped protesters.

Secretary Pompeo urged Prime Minister Abd al-Mahdi to take immediate steps to address the protesters’ legitimate grievances by enacting reforms and tackling corruption. He reaffirmed the United States’ enduring commitment to a strong, sovereign, and prosperous Iraq, as outlined in our bilateral Strategic Framework Agreement.

Secretary Pompeo pledged to continue to support the Iraqi Security Forces in fighting ISIS.

(Source: US State Department)

By Michael Knights, for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

U.S. Interests and the Unsustainable Status Quo in Iraq

The unprecedented protests in Iraq underline the reality that Iraq is slowly failing as a state.

Though life inside the country has improved in some ways, there are still nearly a million new job-seekers each year left unemployed, militias continue to openly humiliate the government, and little is being done to prepare for the day when oil rents can no longer cover the huge bill for the bloated government payroll and social benefits.

Meanwhile, the political parties and bloc leaders that rule Iraq are content to let the country collapse as long as it serves their near-term parochial interests.

Fundamental change is needed: to the nature of party politics, endemic corruption, undue influence by foreign-backed militias, and elections that are at best rigged but are increasingly outright stolen.

In private, almost none of my senior Iraqi political contacts bothers to refute any of the above facts.

Full report here.

(Source: Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Despite several proposals to solve the crises in Iraq and in spite of using different tactics such as promises and threats, the Iraqi government is unable to stop the protests and is unable to convince protesters to go home.

Special Representative for Iraq and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert met with Iraq’s top Shiite authority, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in Najaf on Nov. 11 to discuss political solutions to the ongoing protests.

Following the meeting, Hennis-Plasschaert noted that “the religious authority is concerned about the lack of seriousness among the political forces to undertake reforms.”

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By John Lee.

On Sunday, the UN issued the following statement on the crisis facing Iraq:

Over the past weeks, demonstrations erupted in Baghdad and other governorates in Iraq. Protester demands cover a wide spectrum of issues, including economic growth and employment, reliable public services, prudent and impartial governance, an end to corruption, credible elections as well as broader reform of the political system – including amendments to the constitution.

An accumulation of frustrations about the lack of progress in the last 16 years is clearly perceptible, and with rising numbers of deaths and injured (both protesters and members of the Iraqi Security Forces) a climate of anger and fear has set in. The Iraqi people cannot afford to be held back by the past nor by partisan interests.

Rising hope asks for a leap forward, including the understanding that – in today’s digital age – daily life has moved online. Meanwhile, the risk of ‘spoilers’ hijacking peaceful demonstrations is increasing and potentially derailing any attempt at genuine change. Time is therefore of the essence, as are tangible results.

To start with, and following consultations with a wide range of Iraqi parties, actors and authorities (including the three Presidencies, the Supreme Judicial Council, protesters and union representatives), the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) proposes the following principles and measures:

PRINCIPLES

The following principles apply to all parties at all times:

  1. Protect the right to life above all.
  2. Guarantee the right to peaceful assembly, demonstration and freedom of expression,
    as granted in the constitution.
  3. Practice maximum restraint in the handling of the protests, including no use of live ammunition, ban the improper use of non-lethal devices (such as tear gas canisters).
  4. Deliver full accountability for perpetrators and redress for victims.
  5. Act in keeping with the law, including in regard to public and private properties.

MEASURES

Immediate measures (less than a week) include:

  1. Release all peaceful demonstrators detained since 1 October, in accordance with the law.
  2. No peaceful demonstrators shall be targeted.
  3. Initiate full investigation of cases of abduction (including by making available CCTV footage), and reveal the identity of those responsible.
  4. Accelerate the identification and prosecution of those responsible for targeting demonstrators.
  5. Prosecute and punish those responsible for the excessive use of force and/or other violent acts, in accordance with the law.
  6. Publicly call on all regional and international parties not to interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs, respecting its sovereignty.

Short term measures (within one week to two weeks) include:

  1. Electoral reform: With the technical support of the UN, a single legal framework shall be finalized. Soon after, the framework shall be submitted to the Council of Representatives (CoR). The parliamentary procedure shall be completed as soon as possible.
  2. Security Sector Reform: Executive Order 237 shall be fully implemented without delay. Any weapons outside state control shall be prohibited. Any outlaw armed entity or rogue element shall be considered illegal and it is the state’s responsibility to take them on.
  3. Corruption: The political elite shall lead by example, for instance by publicly declaring their assets – at home and abroad, held under their own name or another. Additionally, political parties/blocs and movements shall abolish their economic committees.

Medium term measures (within one to three months) include:

  1. Constitution: With the technical support of the UN, the Constitutional Review Committee shall continue its work. Any amendment to the constitution shall be put to referendum by the people of Iraq.
  2. Corruption: The Commission of Integrity shall submit corruption cases to the High Judicial Council or the Central Anti-Corruption Court. The Central Anti-Corruption Court shall handle corruption cases at all levels of the state. All corrupt officials will be held accountable and prosecuted.
  3. Enactment of laws: The Government shall send the following draft laws to the CoR, and the CoR shall complete its due process as soon as possible:
    1. A law addressing the principle: ‘Where did you get this from?
    2. The Federal Court Law
    3. The Social Security Law
    4. Law on resolving the Housing Crisis
    5. The Oil and Gas (Hydrocarbon) Law
    6. Amending the Law on Encouraging Investments and Public-Private Sector Partnership
    7. The Council of Ministers and Ministries Law
    8. The Reconstruction Council Law

(Source: UNAMI)

By Saad Salloum for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Shiite protesters get broad backing throughout Iraq

The crowd in Baghdad’s Mohammed al-Qasim Street on Oct. 31 was not caused solely by a street vendor selling Iraqi flags for 1,000 dinars (less than $1).

The street, the longest highway that wraps around the perimeter of Baghdad, had never seen so many flags flying from the windows of every passing car, in a show of great solidarity among Iraqis.

The vendor smiled as he told Al-Monitor, “So far, I have sold more than 1,000 flags and it’s not even 2 p.m.”

Click here to read the full story.

By Gilgamesh Nabeel for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

October brought bad news to Iran, as popular demonstrations in Baghdad and Beirut continued, signaling a potential threat to its dominance over the Shiite Crescent.

Anti-Iran sentiments have been a staple of Iraq’s protests since Oct. 25. Tens of thousands of Iraqi protesters view Iran as the main source of the country’s instability.

Protesters wielding Molotov cocktails attacked the Iranian Consulate in Karbala, home to several Shiite shrines, on the evening of Nov. 3.

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(Picture credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Douglas A. Ollivant for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

As Iraq’s demonstrations continue, what comes next?

Iraq’s demonstrations appear to have settled into at least a temporary “new normal.”

In Baghdad, the protesters have a more or less constant occupation of Tahrir Square and the adjacent “Turkish restaurant” building, which provides an overlook from its 14 stories.

While reliable numbers are hard to get, there are clearly hundreds of thousands, and some claim over a million, demonstrators who are maintaining  consistent, day-after-day presence.

This includes at least a significant minority holding the “terrain” at night so that it is not reclaimed by security forces, despite the use of lethal violence that has claimed over (perhaps well over) 200 lives.

Click here to read the full story.

By Douglas A. Ollivant for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

As Iraq’s demonstrations continue, what comes next?

Iraq’s demonstrations appear to have settled into at least a temporary “new normal.”

In Baghdad, the protesters have a more or less constant occupation of Tahrir Square and the adjacent “Turkish restaurant” building, which provides an overlook from its 14 stories.

While reliable numbers are hard to get, there are clearly hundreds of thousands, and some claim over a million, demonstrators who are maintaining  consistent, day-after-day presence.

This includes at least a significant minority holding the “terrain” at night so that it is not reclaimed by security forces, despite the use of lethal violence that has claimed over (perhaps well over) 200 lives.

Click here to read the full story.