Baghdad on Lockdown not from fear of ISIL but of poor Protesters

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Baghdad was a ghost town on Saturday,, as security forces fanned out, blocking key roads into the Green Zone, the area downtown, closed off by blast walls, that houses parliament and foreign embassies.

On Friday, over a hundred protesters were wounded and at least 2 died as crowds poured into the Green Zone for a second time in a month. Some attacked the home of Iraqi prime minister Haydar al-`Abadi. In response, he ordered a curfew in the capital that lasted until Saturday morning. Security forces expelled the crowds from the Green Zone, using live ammunition and tear gas.

On Saturday, huge crowds of mourners came out in East Baghdad, protesting the deaths and woundings of the protesters, and continuing their protest of the lack of security and services in the capital. In the past week a wave of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) bombings has killed dozens in the Iraqi capital, and several attacks targeted poor Shiite districts.

The hundreds of protesters who came to Baghdad’s Tahrir Square (liberation square) on Friday and then invaded the Green Zone have been characterized as “the poorest of the poor”, Shiite followers of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. That is, this turmoil is in part a class struggle between the disadvantaged Shiites in Iraq and the Shiite state bourgeoisie of post-Baath Iraq. One group is outside the system of well-heeled parties who control government patronage and the distribution of proceeds from the oil industry. The other group, much smaller, uses government positions to reward their party members.

Whether this class struggle can be contained or tamped down will determine Iraq’s future, since a Shiite on Shiite struggle would inevitably benefit Daesh and delay the decisive move on Mosul.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

CCTV News: ” Baghdad protests: 4 killed, 90 injured in riots in Baghdad’s Green Zone”

5 Responses

  1. It would be useful to have a prognosis for the Sunni provinces of Iraq, apparently not much more enthusiastic about Shiite militia liberation and defense than about ISIL/Daesh.

    Does the Iraqi government recognize and proceed toward a federation of provinces allowing the Sunnis sufficient satisfaction that they undertake their own defense, or would it cede Anbar etc to ISIS, or allow an non-Daesh Sunni state there in negotiation with Saudi Arabia and Turkey?

    It would be good to know what conditions of this kind the US imposes upon iraq for US support, or whether it is just more of the same for more of the same, until disaster.

    Is there no think tank debate of these matters in the light of history and the military situation, credible to the Iraq govt and the US, to show them that disaster or indefinite misery looms, unless they negotiate or take certain action?

  2. The so-called think tanks are really NOT think tanks in spite of this term. They are more like ‘jockeyers for favours and prestige” with the Washington establishment, and do not expect any intelligent or serious thinking outside-the-box ideas or plans from them. Often, these organizations task areas to specialists who did not previously specialize in anything Middle Eastern-related and there are various reasons why that is, none are really professional. Many if not most of the so-called think tanks are affiliated with lobbying or political organizations. When they work, it is behind-the-scenes, not before the scrutinizing glare of daylight.

    Our US officials, particularly those with conservative spins or those appointed to this area with zero background or understanding of the country or region, have often favoured federation. Do the Iraqi people favour this too? This is the question. There are a sizable number who fought in the Iraqi army against Iran in that war, including Shi’a Iraqis, who are loyal to the notion of a state of Iraq. Protestors aren’t yet calling for the dissolution of the country; they are demanding action from the current leadership

    The political solution we have imposed on Iraq is a failed one; indeed across the region the parties or systems we have ‘set up’ are anemic and rickety – Libya is another lately in the news. We need to get smarter at promoting feasible political solutions, not imposing them and importantly, factor in populations in these countries when we ‘plan’ (if you want to call what has transpired since 9/11 planning).

    We seem to be rolling in and forgetting, oh yeah, these countries have populations with basic needs and expectations; instead we are stuck on putting out fires and this is not sustainable anywhere

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