05-11-2019 11:19 AM
Baghdad / News
The New York Times for the first time described the large-scale Iraqi demonstrations as being against the “obnoxious Iranian occupation.” To dominate the joints of the Iraqi state. She revealed that the Iraqi army rejects a request to storm the building of the Turkish restaurant for fear of bloodshed.
In detail, the paper says the protests began quietly a month or so ago with sporadic protests. It expanded steadily until last week as more than 200,000 Iraqis marched in Baghdad in the largest demonstration in Iraq’s modern history, protesting against the Iraqi government and a foreign occupier – this time Iran, not America.
The protesters have directed their anger against Iran, which they now see as having considerable influence inside their country, and are screaming against Iraqi parties linked to Iran. They shout slogans “Free Baghdad, Free Iran by Land”. This scream spread in the streets and in the squares of the Iraqi capital, in the city of Karbala and in the back alleys and university corridors. These protests have turned into a struggle over who will shape the future of the country.
Iraq, along with Lebanon, is a country dominated by Iran and is part of a growing revolt against Iran that is trying to demonstrate its power throughout the Middle East.
“The revolution is not anti-American, it is anti-Iran, anti-religious – anti-politics,” says Saad Iskandar, the former head of Iraq’s national archives.
He adds that the protesters are tired of corruption and militias linked to Iran, some of which have developed into a huge mafia, “This is more than that .. Revolution has a social dimension.”
A conflict between generations
While Iran is the direct target of protesters’ anger, the battle is even greater. It is a conflict between Iraqi youth and an older and more cautious generation, and between a political elite and a rising regiment that refuses to lead them.
It is, above all, a conflict between those who have benefited immensely since the US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and those who struggle to get crumbs and angrily monitor the distribution of political parties with ties to Iran, positions, jobs and rewards to those close to them.
The system, which was implemented after the 2003 invasion, despite being drafted by Iraqis and empowered by Americans, has devoted a system to dividing political power along religious and ethnic lines. Iran has taken advantage of that framework, using it to reflect it in Iraqi politics.
As the United States withdrew from Iraq after 2009, Iranian-linked parties expanded their networks within the government. In 2014, Iran took advantage of the war on ISIS, helped form militias to fight ISIS, and by 2018 it became so powerful that Iran’s political parties became dominant in the government.
It was Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, who brokered the deal that created the current government, the paper said.
At the same time, at the grassroots level and among the country’s youth, there was a growing feeling that Iran was benefiting and expanding at the expense of Iraq, becoming part of the political background of the protests.
“All our budget goes to Iran to support the IRGC,” said Ali Jassim, a construction worker. “All ministries and civilian facilities in Iraq run by Iran. We want to get rid of this government. We want the return of our country.
“Our parents were telling us to shut up, the walls have ears,” said Mohammed al-Amin, a second-year medical student who worked at a first aid center.
“But now we have the Internet, we have traveled, we can see what the world looks like, we want a different life, we want to be like other countries, we want our rights.”
Demonstrators’ demands – to get rid of corruption, put an end to political parties, and create a presidential rather than a parliamentary system – seem reasonable at the same time and almost impossible to achieve; at least, not without bloodshed.
This is also difficult to achieve because protesters are increasingly demanding immediate results, as if they wanted to see lawmakers and ministers packing up their bags, getting rid of their characteristic villas in the Green Zone and completely disappearing.
Those politicians who want to work with the protesters realize that the fundamental changes they are demanding, such as new election laws and an eventual new constitution – cannot be achieved overnight. Yet the political class style frustrates protesters who are impatient to see the changes begin now.
Iraqi President Barham Saleh is trying to take steps in this direction by introducing legislation that would eliminate the current system of party lists and allow voters to vote for individual candidates. But in essence, it asks parliament to adopt a system that costs many of its members seats.
“There is the political level, the street and the security establishment,” says Maria Fantabi, senior Iraq analyst at the International Crisis Group.
Protesters, for example, celebrate a sense of freedom and feel empowered through the momentum they created. “It’s not just young males, but for the first time young females and other factions in society,” she said.
She added that the protesters “do not look at what may be the ultimate goal they celebrate that they created this huge protest movement.”
Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi has been criticized for allowing security forces to try to suppress protests by force. During the first week of October, about 150 protesters were killed, most of them shot, and about 5,500 people were injured, including more than 1,000 members of the security forces, according to a government investigation.
This error attracted tens of thousands of people to the protests. Rallies in the range of 20,000 to 25,000 have exploded across the country to nearly 200,000 in the capital. Violence erupted again on Monday, when security forces opened fire on demonstrators as they sought to cross the Al-Ahrar bridge in Baghdad, killing at least five people.
Steps swallowed by corruption
The prime minister, despite much criticism, has taken steps to improve the lives of Iraqis, expand and supply electricity, improve relations with Iraqi Kurds and remove the walls that have divided Baghdad. But he is still a weak leader who owes his position to a political agreement drafted by Iran.
So, while Mahdi was able to appoint technocrats in the ministries of electricity and oil, Iran’s affiliated parties control at least five key ministries, including the ministries of interior, communications, labor, and social affairs. .
Corruption is now endemic, and it exists even in those ministries that are seen as well-managed.
“I graduated in engineering, but when I applied for a job at the Oil Ministry, they asked for $ 7,500,” said 30-year-old Mohammed Fadel.
The security forces are divided between lower-ranking and senior officers and between the Ministry of Defense and those in the Interior Ministry, which has brigades close to Iran.
These divisions have led to disagreements among security entities over how to confront the demonstrators, who seized a building looming over the Republic Bridge. The army refused to approve a plan to cleanse the building (Turkish restaurant), where army officers feared more bloodshed that would provoke greater protests.
“There is no need to create this big problem,” said a senior military official, speaking of the proposed plan to storm the building.
Suddenly, Iraqi news channels announced at midnight on Monday that the government had shut down the Internet. There was no explanation, but officials also closed it in early October, when they thought the protests were spiraling out of control.
Although the government has gradually restored Internet service, social media services including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp have been banned for the duration of the protests.
It remains unclear when the demonstrators will remain on the streets.
For those who go every day with flags around their necks, such as Abu Jamal, 40, a baker, the answer is: “I can pretend for a day, two days, a week, a year or 500 years.”