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Iraqi Demonstrators Torch Consulate and Death Toll Soars
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Iran has condemned the burning of its consulate in the Shia holy city of Najaf as Iraqi security forces escalate violence against protesters, who increasingly see the Iranian authorities as responsible for the repression.

Anti-government protests that started on 1 October now in large part resemble a general uprising by the Shia majority in southern and central Iraq. The government crack-down has seen at least 350 people killed and 15,000 injured. A further 28 protesters were shot dead, 24 of them in the city of Nasiriya, and 165 were injured overnight.

In Baghdad, 4 protesters were killed and 22 were wounded, officials said Thursday.

The protesters who broke into the consulate in Najaf allowed the Iranian employees to escape unharmed, but took down the Iranian flag and replaced it with an Iraqi one. Elsewhere in Najaf, and in other southern Iraqi cities, they staged sit-ins, blocked roads and closed highways leading to Iraq’s two main ports at Umm Qasr and al-Zubair.

In the wake of the burning of its Najaf consulate, Tehran called for a “responsible, strong and effective” response by the Iraqi government.

Baghdad has vigorously but vainly tried to curtail news of the protests and of the killing of protesters by snipers, the moment of their deaths often captured by phone cameras. Though some nine TV channels have been shut and the internet closed for long periods, the suppression of information has turned out to be futile because unrest is too widespread to be isolated.

The burning of the Iranian consulate in the holy city of Najaf is particularly significant because it is the home of the Shia religious authorities headed by the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Its destruction is a sign that many Iraqi Shia have abandoned any sense of religious solidarity with Iran as a Shia state. Sistani has issued statements calling for government reforms and an end to violence by the security forces, but without avail.

The Iraqi political elite also appears to have concluded that it faces an existential threat and must crush the protests using all means possible. The burning of the Iranian consulate in Najaf, one of the two Shia shrine cities, the other being Karbala and both visited by millions of Iranian pilgrims every year, marks a fresh stage in the escalation of the crisis.

It is likely to provoke an even more violent reaction by the Iraqi military which says that it is setting up special military-civilian ‘crisis cells’ to ‘impose security and restore order’. This is despite the fact that shooting demonstrators dead has been counter-productive and only served to fuel popular anger.

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The protests began on a small scale two months ago with demands for government action to provide jobs, end corruption and provide essential services such as electricity and water. The rallies were not unprecedented and there had been mass demonstrations with similar demands in Baghdad in 2016 and Basra in 2018, but in neither case had there been significant loss of life. This year, however, Iraqi riot police and pro-Iranian paramilitary forces opened fire into the crowds, killing at least ten people on the first day.

This violent over-reaction by the authorities turned a small protest into the biggest threat to the political status quo in Iraq since the US invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. From the beginning, snipers have shot unarmed protesters through the head and chest; paramilitary squads have wrecking TV stations and invaded hospitals treating injured protesters to beat and detain them. The correct number of fatalities is unknown, but is likely to be much higher than that admitted by the authorities.

The repression is reportedly being masterminded by the Iranian General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the al-Quds force of the Revolutionary Guards. He appears to have prematurely activated pre-planned counter measures to be implemented by Iraqi government officials and paramilitary commanders close to Iran long before street protests posed any real threat to the status quo.

The fact that demonstrations are all in the Shia heartlands and not in Sunni or Kurdish areas that makes them particularly threatening to the Shia ruling elite. This has long had a reputation for syphoning off Iraq’s oil revenues, but for long many Shia were more concerned about the existential threat posed to their community by Isis.

The defeat of Isis in the nine-month long siege of Mosul in 2016/17 made Iraqi Shia feel safer, but it also allowed them to express their rage at lack of employment and basic facilities, despite their living in one of the world’s great oil producers, whose oil revenues totalled $7 billion in a single month earlier this year. Ominously, Isis claimed responsibility for three bombs in Baghdad – the first for months – that killed five people earlier this week.

Iran is likely to double-down in advocating – and probably orchestrating – increased repression as unrest continues to spread. Iranian leaders and their allies in Iraq promote a conspiracy theory, in which they most likely believe, that portrays anti-government and anti-Iranian attacks as the work of the proxies of foreign powers such as the US, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Given this interpretation of events, the repression can only get worse.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iran, Iraq 
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  1. Kali says:

    “And let us not tollerate any outragious conspuracy theories”!!

    Even as a pretext for war agaist Iran is somehow, mirraculously (if you happen to be a zionist) unfolding in Iraq!

    As I read that article the words “photographs or it didn’t happen” crossed my mind, along with “why would Iran do this NOW, given the possition it’s in?”

    And then I reached the punchline.

    Patrick Cockburn really is an outragious hack and a shill for the establishment.

    FREE JULIAN ASSANGE!

  2. hoarse says:

    Cockboy sees another chance to impose his tiresome Zionazi bull shit but look no further than to Sharmine Narwani for loads of facts, not lies:
    https://www.rt.com/op-ed/474464-iran-protests-economy-sanctions-government/

  3. Hossein says:

    Good for the Iraqis to disldge Persian neo colonialist plans in their wounded country. The Mullas ,using the virus of sectarianism, have caused serious damage to the fabric of Iraqi society pitting one Iraqi against another .

    There is no difference between the encroachment by the Zionists and those Persianists dreaming of so called “greater Iran” plan that exactly resembles that of the Zionist plan for “greater israel”.
    Both the government of Rabbis and the regime of Mullas are salivating to control as much as the Arab land and colonize those they percieve lesser than their own , the Arabs. Persian anti Arab racism is even stronger than Jewish supremacism.

    Those who percieve the rotten Mullas as anti Zionist and anti Imperialist should take a serious look at the past and present activities of this sectarian Mafia and their horrendous crimes against their own people and other masses in the region and will find out that the evil plans of Zionism and Persian neo colonialism are the same .
    Wishing the great iraqi pople and their wounded country victory against the virus of sectarianism , the malicious theocratic mafia and neo colnialism.

  4. Are we witnessing 2014 Maiden Sq. all over again? Snipers! I sense the hand of the CIA/ MOSSAD whose greatest fear is that Sunni and Shia put aside petty differences to unite, to come together and drive the invaders from their borders. Unfortunately, when war is all there is, soldiers are cheap.

  5. What Iranians upset about Iraqis attacking their embassy —

    Bad form . . . .

    In all sincerity, it is unfortunate that the embassy was attacked, we in the US can fully appreciate angst over the matter.

    ———————————————

    But I do support Iraq being for Iraqis.

    • Replies: @anonymous
  6. Isramerican ZOG,

    having failed to break the Shi’ia Crescent (Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus-Lebanon/Hezbollah)

    by fomenting a Sunni terrorist overthrow of Assad in Syria,

    is now playing the same bloody trick in Iraq….

    against the very same Shi’ia regime ZOG put in power back when

    in order to shove Iraq back on to the petrodollar. What

    tangled webs doth weave the Eternal Jew.

    • Replies: @Hossein
  7. anonymous[222] • Disclaimer says:
    @EliteCommInc.

    But I do support Iraq being for Iraqis.

    totally righteous, dude.

    oh
    btw
    did you “support Iraq being for Iraqis” back when Americans were running Iraq?

    • Replies: @anonymous
  8. The Iraqis should throw all the filthy Mullas out thus eradicating the virus of sectarianism, used by Iranians to divide and conquer against Iraqis, and restore their national sovereignty.

    Those Mullas are reactionary,cruel and barbarous savages using the nonsense of so called religion for a new type of inquisition resembling the medieval methods used by the Catholic church and other religious cults.

  9. Hossein says:
    @Haxo Angmark

    Bunch of horse shit. The Iraqis want to get rid of Persian imported sectarianism and that is why they have revolted against the savage Mullas, their terrorist militias and the rotten clerics that are mostly agents of Persian neo colonial expansionist plan.

    Tic Tac tic Tac. The Mullas are about to be dumped into the bottom of the dump , a place similar to Dante;s inferno.
    Kudos to the Iraqi revolutionaries and their patriotic struggle against neo colonialism ,theocracy and sectarian Persian Mafia.

  10. anonymous[307] • Disclaimer says:
    @anonymous

    [But I do support Iraq being for Iraqis.]

    Then dummies must answer: Why the criminal US and its mass killers, soldiers, are still occupying Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Africa, Central Asia, Cuba, Latin America?

    Why dummies are silent against the USG and Mafia Trump regime who is occupying so many countries, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria where US/Israel STAGED 9/11 to fool dummies to invade and occupy 7 countries in five years, but it did not go according to the plan because it requires brain that these illiterate criminals lacks. The only thing they know is to bomb, kill, invade, rape and rob. Criminals who brought the world to this stage of wars and destruction, must be totally destroyed.
    If your economy is so good, then why YOU MUST rob and kill to feed yourselves.

    The funny thing is that Trump lies daily like ‘peace in Afghanistan’, ‘pulling out the troops from Syria and Iraq’, and the American dummies by CHOICE have no objection and in fact they are complicit with US crimes against humanity and have to answer the question when there is a world court to
    try these criminals and sent them to death sentence.

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