Sunday, December 15, 2019

More killings as Iraqi officials fail to do their job

In Iraq, protests continue -- as do the attacks on the protesters.

  1. : Mohammed al-Doujaili was shot in the back near the Tahrir Square protest hub on Saturday night

AFP explains, "Mohammed Al Doujaili, 24, was shot in the back near the Tahrir Square protest hub on Saturday night, the police source said. Another man who was with him was wounded in the same attack, and Al Doujaili died of his wounds at a Baghdad hospital Sunday morning, relatives said."

While protesters risk their lives for a better Iraq, officials do nothing.  Mustafa Saadoun (AL-MONITOR) reports:

The constitutional deadline for nominating a new prime minister arrived Dec. 15 with no consensus candidate in view, even though a spokesman for Iraqi President Barham Salih said Dec. 12 that the president was committed to coming up with a candidate within the constitutional time frame.
Former Human Rights Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani threw his hat in the ring Dec. 13, announcing on his Twitter account that he has resigned from the Islamic Dawa party to become a candidate for the premiership. Sudani has not been nominated by any bloc in the parliament, although he is believed to be backed by Fatah bloc, which is the political front of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition, which together could form the largest bloc in parliament. However, the president sent a request on Dec. 15 to the parliament, asking to determine the largest bloc, in order to nominate a candidate for the premiership position, which indicates that Fatah was not able to form the largest bloc and Sudani candidacy was not successful. In fact, one of the main criticism against the parliament and government formed after the 2018 election is that the whole process of forming the government had not followed the constitution guideline which obliged the parliament to determine the largest bloc officially, which did not happen. 
Moreover, the protesters had rejected Sudani previously. His photo, among those of other five possible candidates, can be seen in Tahrir Square with a big red X across it, indicating that the protesters do not accept any of the names. The other names are Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Qusai al-Suhail, Basra Gov. Asaad al-Eidani, former Minister of Youth and Sports Abdul-Hussein Abtan, former Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum and veteran politician Izzat al-Shahbandar.
The protesters had previously said that they want a new face without any affiliation with the current political class to lead the caretaker government and prepare for fair early elections, on the condition that the caretaker prime minister not run for office in the upcoming contest. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has the largest parliamentary bloc with 54 seats, also has rejected Sudani. Sadr has said the protesters must nominate the new prime minister. 

The protests have been going on for some time now.  There has been more than enough time for the officials to take action.   September 28th, came the news that Iraq's Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi had fired Lt Gen Abdul Wahab al-Saadi the previous day.  The lieutenant general was considered key to defeating the Islamic State in Mosul.  He was the commander of the Iraqi Counter-Terrosim Forces and his firing was seen as a move by Mahdi to appease the Iranian-backed militiasTHE WASHINGTON POST's Liz Sly observed, "Iraq's Lt Gen Abdulwahab al-Saadi became a national hero during the ISIS war.  Lots of speculation that he's been removed at the behest of Iran which sees him as a threat."  MIDDLE EAST EYE noted, "Iraqis across the country - including in battered Mosul, where a statue of Saadi was erected but never unveiled due to divisions in the city - reacted with shock to the move. The hashtag 'We are all Abdulwahab al-Saadi' began trending on Twitter, with users sharing photographs of the general aiding civilians in Mosul and other cities."  Despite an online outcry, Mahdi insisted, "The decision is irreversible."  September 29th, a protest took place in Mosul, as journalist Mustafa Habib noted in real time.  By October 1st, as we noted in that day's snapshot, protests had spread across Iraq and we pointed out, "It is at least the third major protest in the last seven days."  we noted Lawk Ghafuri (RUDAW) reporting on the first protest of the last seven days which had taken place in Baghdad the previous Wednesday outside the Council of Ministers as Iraqis with various advanced degrees protested over corruption and unemployment and were met with water cannons (Lawk noted this video).  On October 1st, Mohammed Rwanduzy (RUDAW) reports:

Hundreds of Iraqis protested in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday to express diverse, long-brewing grievances, including, a lack of basic services, rampant corruption, and unequal treatment within the Iraqi Army. 
Civilian protestors expressed anger about the Friday dismissal of Iraqi Army commander Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, credited with the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, from the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services (ICTS).  Civilian protestors holding pictures of al-Saadi disapproved of his subsequent transfer to the Ministry of Defense.
“We don't want this is corrupt government,” civilians chanted, while others extended their discontent to the parliament and presidency. “All are corrupt equally,” a protestor said.

Also on October 1st, Mustafa Habib observed, "All the world expected big protests in Iraq this summer bud did not happen because they want to give the govt a chance despite the continued poor services, but after the govt's decision to remove Saadi, the protests began today from Baghdad & may be the biggest."  Somehow the western press that has followed has left out the firing of the lieutenant general and the fact that the protest started at the end of September."  The protests over the firing of al-Saadi only reached Baghdad on October 1st but they were already taking place.  And on October 1st, protests also took place in Basra and Missan.  The Iraqi government set the pattern for their response that day: Violence.  Margaret Griffis (ANTIWAR.COM) noted, "Protests across Iraq have left at least 10 dead and 286 wounded. [. . .] The fatalities occurred in Baghdad and Nasariya. At least 11 people were arrested in Basra. [. . . ]  Security personnel at some point had turned to live ammunition to disperse the crowds. Demonstrations were also reported in Basra, Dhi Qar, Diwaniya, Karbala, Najaf, Nasariya and Wasit. Use of live ammo to clear protesters was also reported in Nasariya, where a fatality occurred.  Among the complaints are lack of  basic services, rampant corruption, and unequal treatment within the Iraqi Army."

By October 2nd, the Iraqi government had imposed a curfewAli Alzzawi pointed out that the government also "blocked the internet so they can do whatever they want to those peaceful protesters."  ALJAZEERA's Imran Khan reported, "They are restricting live broadcasts from the protest scene, as well as social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter."  At that point, the death toll was at least 20.  By Saturday, Hamdi Alkhshali, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Tamara Qiblawi (CNN) would report the death toll had reached  93.  December 14th, the REUTERS death toll stood at 440.   MIDDLE EAST MONITOR reports:

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Right Monitor and the Iraqi Centre for the Documentation of War Crimes revealed today that armed groups had kidnapped at least 300 protesters recently, from or near the Tahrir Square during their participation in the ongoing protests in the Iraqi capital. They arbitrarily placed them in a secret prison in an agricultural area on the outskirts of Baghdad.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Right Monitor and the Iraqi Centre for the Documentation of War Crimes quoted in a joint statement one of the released detainees saying that the armed groups, which kidnapped him along with other protestors on 7 November belong to the security forces of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and they were in charge of the secret detention facility located near an agricultural area known as the Dora expressway- Baghdad. It was the old headquarters of an armed faction.
According to the statement of the released detainee, who provided an accurate description of the military uniform and vehicles used by these forces, the PMF Intelligence Directorate is directly responsible for most of the kidnappings targeting activists and protesters at major protest points in the capital, Baghdad.

THE NATIONAL notes, "Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, on Friday condemned recent killing and kidnapping of protesters, urging the state to assert control over the widespread use of weapons. Mr Al Sistani also called on the armed forces to remain professional, loyal to the state and free from foreign influence, in a sermon delivered in the southern city of Karbala by his representative."

In other news, the US State Dept issued the following statement Friday attributed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo:

Iran’s proxies have recently conducted several attacks against bases where Iraqi Security Forces are co-located with U.S. and International Coalition personnel.  On December 9, they launched a rocket attack against an Iraqi facility located on the Baghdad International Airport compound.  The December 9 attack wounded five Iraqi soldiers, two critically.  This was followed by another rocket attack on the airport on December 11.  We hope and pray these brave Iraqis will quickly and fully recover from their injuries.
The United States will continue to work hand-in-hand with our Iraqi partners, including the Iraqi Security Forces, which played a pivotal role in reclaiming Iraq’s sovereignty from ISIS.  We must also use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies, or our interests will be answered with a decisive U.S. response. Iran must respect the sovereignty of its neighbors and immediately cease its provision of lethal aid and support to third parties in Iraq and throughout the region.

Isaiah's latest THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "Joe Makes The Cover" went up this morning.  The following sites updated: