By Dr Renad Mansour, for Chatham House. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

After Latest Turn, is Muqtada al-Sadr Losing Influence in Iraq?

The populist cleric has repositioned himself in Iraqi politics multiple times, but his recent shift against youth-led protestors may signal his decline as an autonomous political force.

Following the US strike on Qassem Solaimani and Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis, populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has violently cracked down on youth-led protests in Iraq.

His paramilitaries and ‘blue hats’ – supposedly created to protect protestors from state and allied parastatal security forces – sought to end the months-long demonstrations by attacking the places where protesters have camped since October. In Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, they successfully captured the famous Turkish restaurant which had become a symbol of Iraq’s ‘October revolution’.

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

Iraqi Jews in Israel watch protests with hope

The protests in Iraq have drawn the attention of a minority group that emigrated decades ago. Although Iraq’s Jews could not return to Iraq for reasons beyond their control, they have showed wide support and interest in the protests.

Iraq’s Jewish emigrants in Israel have displayed varied feelings toward the protest movement.

In addition to their amazement at seeing a national identity rising from the ashes of wars and conflict, they watched with heavy hearts as the protesters were brutally suppressed, with up to 600 people dead and more than 25,000 wounded, recalling the painful reasons they left their mother country in 1950-1951.

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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.

After withdrawing his support for the protests, controversial populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers back to Tahrir Square Feb. 1, where his supporters clashed with demonstrators and forcibly took over the main part of Tahrir Square as well as the Turkish Restaurant that has been under control of the protesters.

The nomination of Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi as the new Iraqi prime minister was simultaneously received negatively by the protesters, who see his appointment as a plot by Sadr and his Iran-backed allies in the government to end the protests in Baghdad.

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

Iraqi protesters demand UN protection from violence of authorities

Iraqi protesters are seeking greater international attention to both their cause and attacks by security forces and armed groups, even at one point displaying a large United Nations flag at the Turkish restaurant at Tahrir Square; the restaurant was seized Feb. 1 by supporters of populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Protests started in early October in a bid to bring about political change in the country. On Jan. 28, the logo of the international organization was raised, a day after demonstrators circulated posters in Tahrir Square calling for the UN to intervene to protect them from excessive violence.

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By John Lee.

Iraqi authorities ramped up violent tactics to quash ongoing protests across Baghdad and southern Iraq between January 25 and 27, 2020, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.

Security forces set fire to protesters’ tents, fired live ammunition, and detained protesters in Baghdad, Basra, and Nasriya.

Human Rights Watch was unable to determine the extent of casualties or numbers detained.

More here.

(Source: HRW)

By Professor Frank R. Gunter, for the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Professor Gunter, a Senior Fellow in the FPRI’s Program on the Middle East, is a Professor of Economics at Lehigh University, and a member of the IBBC Advisory Council.

Iraq: Asking the Right Questions about Civil Disorder

Since October 1 of last year, over 600 Iraqis have been killed and thousands injured in protests throughout the country. The accompanying political and social chaos has strengthened efforts by other nations to interfere in Iraq with deadly effects.

What caused this sudden surge of violence? There are a wide range of political, economic, and social problems in Iraq, such as corruption, lack of public services, and mass unemployment.

But most observers focus on disputes among the Iraqi leaders or among various ethnic or religious groups as the causes of current civil disorder in Iraq.

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467 Iraqi demonstrators have been killed and more than 9,000 injured since the start of the anti-government protests in early October, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has announced:

With ongoing violence and rising casualties in the context of protests and ahead of further planned demonstrations, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, is urging stepped up efforts to break the political deadlock and press ahead with substantial reforms, warning that the use of force costs precious lives and will not end the crisis.

“The continuing loss of young lives and the daily bloodshed is intolerable. At least 467 protesters have been killed and over 9,000 injured since 1 October,” lamented the Special Representative.

“A recent increase in the use of live ammunition by security forces, reported shootings by unidentified gunmen at protesters and the continued targeted killing of demonstrators and human rights defenders are alarming. It is imperative that the Iraqi authorities protect the rights of peaceful protesters and ensure that all use of force complies with international standards. Equally important is full accountability: the perpetrators of unlawful killings and attacks must be brought to justice.”

A climate of fear and distrust will bring nothing but further damage. Political action and progress in the search for solutions must replace indecisiveness to deliver on the many promises and intentions. Building resilience at the state and societal levels is the only way forward to draw the people out of despair and into renewed hope, the Special Representative emphasized.

“Many have sacrificed everything to have their voices heard. Solutions are urgently needed. Iraq cannot afford the ongoing violent oppression nor the political and economic paralysis.”

The Human Rights Office of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has consistently monitored the human rights situation in the context of the demonstrations. Since the beginning of the protests in October, it issued three reports* documenting human rights violations in the periods from 1 October to 9 December and presenting recommendations to the authorities. Since 17 January, UNAMI has recorded at least 19 demonstrators killed and over 400 injured by security forces in Baghdad, Basra, Dhi Qar, Diyala, Diwaniya, Karbala and Wassit. Preliminary information attributes most deaths and injuries to the use of live ammunition and the impact of tear gas canisters, while additional injuries occurred as a result of security forces beating demonstrators with sticks. Most violence used by security forces occurred in the context of attempts to clear roadblocks or disperse demonstrators.

In Baghdad, efforts by security forces to clear the Mohamed Qassem highway and areas in the vicinity of Tahrir Square using live ammunition and tear gas resulted in at least 11 deaths and 53 injuries. In Nasiriya, Dhi Qar on 25 and 26 January, security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas canisters causing at least three deaths and injuring over 100 protesters. Similarly, in Basra, in the early morning of 25 January, security forces demolished more than 20 tents set up by protesters as part of a sit-in and forced the protesters out of the area. In Karbala, security forces also used violence against protesters, resulting in at least 4 deaths and injury to over 150 others. In Diyala, the use of live ammunition by security forces resulted in the first death attributed to this cause and context in the governorate and injured at least four others.

There were cases of unidentified armed men shooting protesters. This happened on four consecutive nights in Basra from 21 to 25 January, killing two protesters and injuring nine others. In Nasiriya, on the night of 26 to 27 January, a group of armed men of unclear affiliation shot live ammunition at protesters in Haboubi Square, killing at least one protester and injuring four more, and set fire to several protestor tents.

Targeted killings continue against demonstrators and activists. Since 1 October, at least 28 incidents have taken place in which persons associated with demonstrations, either as participants, journalists covering the protests or prominent activists, have been targeted by armed men or improvised explosive devices, resulting in 18 deaths and the injury of at least 13 others. The cases include the targeted killing of two Dijlah Television reporters in Basra on 10 January. In Missan alone, credible reports indicate seven incidents in which civil society activists were shot at by armed men, resulting in two deaths and the injury of five others.

UNAMI also continues to track and monitor reports of physical attacks against demonstrators, including stabbings, cases of missing demonstrators and activists, and incidents of threat and intimidation.

Stressing the futility of violence in responding to the protests, Special Representative Hennis-Plasschaert said all efforts should instead focus on how to fully implement reforms and initiate a constructive dialogue to tackle the country’s problems in a spirit of unity.

“It is high time to restore confidence by setting aside partisanship, acting in the interest of the country and its people. Hard work and goodwill gestures will resonate with the people, and will be met in kind, strengthening the country’s resilience as it seeks to emerge stronger from this crisis.”

*links to the three previous reports: https://bit.ly/2OevRx0

(Source: UN)

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.

As Iraq’s protests continue, is political solution on the horizon?

Iraq’s current situation has come to resemble a tangled ball of yarn, with new complications and complexities arising daily.

While the protesters fire up the political scene, political parties are unable to calm the tension and send the protesters home. Meanwhile, the tensions between Iran and the United States are intensifying.

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The Ambassadors of Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States condemn the excessive and lethal use of force by Iraqi security forces and armed groups since 24 January against peaceful protestors, including in Baghdad, Nasiriya and Basra.

Despite assurances by the government, security forces and armed groups continue to use live fire in these locations, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries of civilians, while some protestors face intimidation and abduction.

The Ambassadors call on the government to respect freedoms of assembly and the right to protest peacefully, as enshrined in Iraq’s constitution, and on all protestors to maintain the peaceful nature of the movement.

The Ambassadors call on the government to guarantee credible investigations and accountability for the over 500 deaths and thousands of injuries of protesters since 1 October.

(Source: British Embassy)