From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq protests swell with youth angry at slow pace of reform

Protests escalated across Iraq’s capital Baghdad as demonstrators sealed off streets with burning tyres in outrage at the government’s slow pace of reform.

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UN Iraq Representative urges renewed push for reform, calls for demonstrations to remain peaceful

With public demonstrations across many parts of Iraq in their fourth month, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, is urging a renewed push for reform and expressing concern about ongoing human rights violations.

She emphasizes the importance of pressing ahead to meet the needs of the Iraqi people: building resilience at the state and societal level is challenging but essential work.

“In recent months, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from all walks of life have taken to the streets to voice their hopes for better times, free from corruption, partisan interests and foreign interference. The killing and injury of peaceful protesters, combined with long years of undelivered promises, have resulted in a major crisis of confidence.”

Two months after the Prime Minister announced his resignation, political leaders remain unable to agree on the way forward. While there was public acknowledgement by all actors that urgent reform is needed, it is now high time to put these words into action and to avoid further derailing of these protests by those pursuing their own objectives, not wishing well for this country and its people.

“Any steps taken so far to address the people’s concerns will remain hollow, if they are not completed. Domestic unity, cohesion and determination are urgently necessary to build resilience against narrow partisan interests, foreign interference and/or criminal elements which actively seek to hinder Iraq’s stability.”

The recent escalation in regional tensions has understandably taken much attention away from urgent unfinished domestic business. However, geopolitical developments must not eclipse the rightful demands of the Iraqi people. This will only further fuel public anger and distrust.

The Special Representative urges the Iraqi authorities to do everything to protect peaceful demonstrators. “Violent suppression of peaceful protesters is intolerable and must be avoided at all costs. Nothing is more damaging than a climate of fear. Accountability and justice for victims is critical to building trust, legitimacy and resilience.

She calls on protesters to remain peaceful, avoiding counterproductive violence and destruction of property.

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

Oil production is reported to have stopped at the 70,000-bpd Al Ahdab field on Sunday, as security guards seeking permanent employment blocked access to the site.

According to Bloomberg, the 50,000-bpd Badra field is also at risk of closure from Monday.

Al Ahdab is developed by China’s CNPC, while Badra is run by a consortium of Gazprom (30%), KOGAS (22.5%), Petronas (15%), TPAO (7.5%).

(Source: Bloomberg)

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

Killers target activists performing logistics for Iraqi protests

Forces opposed to the protests in Iraq appear to have stepped up operations to kill protest activists and journalists covering the demonstrations following the escalation of the crisis between the United States and Iran in Iraq.

Hundreds of protesters have been reported killed since the protests began in early October. But there has been a subset of killings that has targeted protest activists who have been raising funds, providing ambulance services and mobilizing demonstrators.

Journalists providing the public with information about the protests also have been killed in an apparent bid to curtail coverage.

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

Blood is still on the streets near the Ahrar Bridge in Baghdad. A Red Crescent worker explained that just two days before, Iraqi security forces shot a teen, just 16 or 17 years old, who was participating in the protests.

Further down the street, a group of men said that the teen’s death had been the first in several weeks since the protests began.

Protesters on social media aimed to get 1 million Iraqis to take to the streets Jan. 10, in a bid to prevent their demands from being forgotten.

Slogans such as “the parliament does not represent us” and “take your wars out of Iraq” have largely supplanted earlier ones against corruption.

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(Picture credit: Christian Lindgren)

By Christine McCaffray van den Toorn and Raad Alkadiri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

US-Iran tensions shift Iraq from brink of reform to brink of war

Rising US-Iranian tensions over the past week have seemingly brought the two sides closer to outright confrontation than at any time in the past four decades.

Tehran’s vow to take revenge for the US drone strike Jan. 3 that killed the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), or Hashid Shaabi, last week in Baghdad has been met with equally bellicose statements by US President Donald Trump, who sent 3,500 additional troops to the Middle East after the assassination and promised that any Iranian action would be met with a massive US military response.

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From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Students protest against American and Iranian interference

Iraqi students take to the streets in the Iraqi city of Karbala to protest against the US and Iran’s interference in Iraq.

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From The Economist.

The conflict between America and Iran intensifies in Iraq

For months young Iraqi protesters trying to reach the Green Zone, the government enclave in Baghdad, were met with bullets and tear-gas canisters, the latter often fired at their heads.

But on December 31st hundreds of militiamen were allowed to enter unmolested. The men, affiliated to Kataib Hizbullah, an Iranian-backed Shia paramilitary group, tried to storm the American embassy.

They threw petrol bombs over the walls and broke into a reception area where security personnel would normally screen visitors. Iraqi police largely stood by for hours; it was not until nightfall that the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), an elite unit, sent men to secure the embassy.

They did not have orders to evict the rioters, who made plans to camp outside. As night fell, American Apache helicopters could be seen flying overhead, dropping flares.

Read the full article here (subscription needed).

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.

Iraq’s political crisis is getting increasingly deeper while the security situation is steadily declining, pushing the country toward further uncertainty and possible political collapse.

What are the conflicting forces and sources of the crisis, and what are the possible scenarios for Iraq’s immediate future?

Click here to read the full story.

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqi President Barham Salih refused on Thursday to designate a nominee for an Iran-backed parliamentary bloc for prime minister, saying he would rather resign than appoint someone to the position who would be rejected by protesters.

Salih said in a statement that because the constitution did not give him the right to reject nominees for the premiership, he was ready to submit his resignation to the parliament.

Al Jazeera‘s Dorsa Jabbari has more from Baghdad: