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At Least 37 Wounded During Protests In Iraq

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At Least 37 Wounded During Protests In Iraq

Mass protests against corruption, lack of services and unemployment broke out in October last year

The Interior Ministry said that at least 37 people, including 17 security personnel, were wounded during renewed protests in Iraq. The protestors converged on the Allawi and Tahrir squares in the Iraqi capital on Sunday morning, demanding an end to corruption, and improvements in the provision of essential services

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who took office in May after his predecessor was driven out by last year’s mass protests, promised in a televised address on Saturday to hold early elections, a demand of many protestors, and said security forces would not prevent peaceful protests.

However, on Sunday security forces fired water cannon and tear gas at the protesters to prevent them from entering Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone where the Parliament and other government buildings, as well as foreign embassies, are located. Protests were also held in the Iraqi cities of Karbala and Najaf.

Several videos of the protests in Baghdad have been posted online:

Sunday’s protests were smaller than the demonstrations held in October last year when many thousands rallied in Baghdad and the south, confronting security forces and militiamen in clashes that killed more than 500 people.

Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr had warned that there were provocateurs among the protesters, who want the peaceful rallies to deteriorate into riots in order to further destabilise the situation in Iraq.

Security forces spokesman, Yehia Rasool, later said that a group of infiltrators attacked security forces during the protests, wounding at least 17 security personnel. LINK

Under immense pressure from all sides, the Iraqi government and parliament created a new supreme military and security committee earlier this month to investigate the persistent rocket attacks that have targeted diplomatic installations and other areas occupied by the US-led coalition as well as their supply convoys.

The Iraqi government is caught between the US determination to continue using Iraqi territory for its wider Middle East ambitions against Syria and Iran, and the corresponding determination of Iraqi resistance groups to force the US to comply with the unanimous demand of the Iraqi parliament and government made in January of this year to withdraw all military personnel from Iraq.

The Americans hint that they could move diplomatic and military assistance missions from Baghdad to more distant Iraqi locales, including Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Americans can’t entirely withdraw from Iraq since Erbil is a vital logistics base for U.S. operations in eastern Syria. The militias sent another message on Oct. 1 by launching rockets that landed near the Erbil airport. They also again ambushed a U.S. supply convoy coming up from Kuwait.

Early on Oct. 5 more rockets landed near the Baghdad airport, where U.S. military personnel are located, and also near the U.S. embassy. A complete halt to attacks against American interests is unlikely in the foreseeable future. Closing the U.S. embassy in Baghdad would mark a political defeat for Washington, and the question is whether the Iraqis can restrain the militias enough to satisfy the Trump administration… LINK

In a joint statement earlier this month, Iraqi resistance groups agreed on a conditional ceasefire with respect to US forces present in Iraq, saying they would halt their military operations, including rocket attacks, providing that Washington does not insist on maintaining their presence in Iraq.

They emphasized that the “conditional opportunity” was created “to respect the good efforts made by some national and political figures to draw up a clear and specific timetable for the implementation of the decision of the Iraqi people, parliament, and government on withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.”

Muhammad Mohi, spokesman for Kata’ib Hezbollah, said in an exclusive interview with Reuters that Baghdad must implement the parliamentary resolution.

“The factions have presented a conditional ceasefire. It includes all factions of the (anti-US) resistance, including those who have been targeting US forces,” he said.

Mohi said that there was no deadline for Baghdad to implement the parliament’s resolution, but warned that “If America insists on staying and doesn’t respect the parliament’s decision then the factions will use all the weapons at their disposal”.

He also stated that Katyusha rocket attacks on US forces and diplomatic compounds had merely been a message that they are not welcome, and indicated that worse attacks could follow if they do not leave. LINK

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