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The Post-Saddam Hussein Settlement in Iraq Is on the Brink of Collapse
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Iraq is poised at a turning point in its modern history as its people wait to see if the government curfew and close down of the internet will end the ongoing demonstrations.

I am staying in the Baghdad Hotel, off Sadoon Street in central Baghdad, not far from Tahrir Square, the focus of most protest movements in Iraq. On Tuesday I was expecting to visit Iraqi army bases north of Baghdad to find out if Isis was still a threat and what the chances were of it making a comeback.

I never went: on Tuesday afternoon at about 4pm I began to hear the “put put” of rifle fire in the distance which at first I disregarded, thinking there might be a wedding or some other celebration. But the sound got louder and soon there was the sharp crack of weapons being fired close by. In the lobby of my hotel, a man stopped me and said, “There are 10 dead already and the fighting is going to get worse.”

It turned out that the government had managed to turn a small demonstration of 3,000 people in Tahrir Square, who had been protesting for three months against official corruption, a lack of jobs and poor services, into a major incident. The protesters had tried to cross the Jumhuriya Bridge which leads in the direction of the green zone, the site of the parliament, the prime minister’s office and other official buildings. The riot police, who have a bad reputation in Iraq, opened fire with rubber bullets, stun grenades, and, eventually, live rounds. Soon a video was flashing around social media of the protesters, mostly under 20, being attacked by the police and hosed with hot water.

It was this incident which turned a small scale protest into mass demonstrations which may bring down the government of prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. The riot police inadvertently detonated the explosive resentment felt by almost all Iraqis towards the kleptocratic state which has stolen as much as $450bn since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

All Iraqis know that the country possesses vast oil wealth, bringing in $6.5bn a month, but they live with widescale unemployment, lack of electricity, pervasive corruption and a poor quality health and education system. They know that vast fortunes have been made by government officials siphoning off money for projects that are never completed and, frequently, are never even begun. For many years, even the state’s bomb detecting equipment, which was entirely ineffective in detecting bombs, was being bought for tens of thousands of dollars apiece though it cost only a few dollars to make.

It is this sense of grievance which is now beginning to explode: unless the government can rein it in over the next few days it is unlikely to last very long. One of the strengths of the protest movement is that it has no leaders but is almost entirely spontaneous, with a wide variety of slogans, but this means the government has nobody to talk to, not that it is trying very hard to negotiate its way out of trouble. Many Iraqis say that it is a mistake to get rid of the government without knowing what will replace it but others argue that things could not be much worse for them and are prepared to take a leap in the dark.

Intense rage against government mass theft of Iraq’s resources has been there since 2003, but the Shia majority have usually been persuaded by their political leaders that they must stick together to stop al-Qaeda or Isis making a comeback. Up to the recapture of Mosul, the de facto Isis capital in 2017 after a nine-month siege, this argument often worked. But since then Isis has controlled no territory in Iraq and there have been no big bombings in Baghdad for three years. People are no longer so frightened by the fear of their families being murdered that they are prepared to ignore the mass corruption and lack of basic services.

The explosion over social grievances would have happened at some point and it was government overreaction which insured that this happened last Tuesday. Quite why it behaved liked this is something of a mystery: speculation in Baghdad is that the prime minister is advised by military hawks with little idea of the mechanics of Iraqi politics.

But it is noticeable that the government has failed to make any concessions since it’s made its first mistakes. “The prime minister should have done something like announcing that he would arrest the hundred most corrupt members of his government,” said one friend. Instead ministers have been saying that they will inquire into the reasons for the protests, but these are glaringly obvious and known to the whole country: corruption, joblessness and lack of services.

What will happen next? The government cannot maintain a total lockdown on Baghdad, a city of seven million people, for very long. Already people are beginning to move on the streets around my hotel and many of them heading for Tahrir Square. Closing down the internet may have disrupted communications between protesters, making it more difficult for them to stage demonstrations in the centre of the city.

But it has only displaced the protests to districts all over Baghdad, including the Shia stronghold of Sadr City which is reputed to have a population of 3 million. Reports yesterday spoke of crowds there setting fire to municipal offices and the headquarters of political parties associated with the government. The uprising has also spread across all of southern Iraq, though not yet to the Sunni provinces. The government may find it difficult to suppress the Shia, their own base support, using armed forces that are themselves mostly Shia.

ORDER IT NOW

The government’s legitimacy was low to begin with and is sinking by the day. Ali Sistani, the revered religious leader of the Shia, may come out against the government actions. Muqtada al-Sadr, the populist nationalist leader whose movement came first in the parliamentary elections in 2018, has said he supports the protests, though he does not want his supporters to play a leading role in them on the grounds that this would “politicise” the protest movement and discredit it in the eyes of some Iraqis. Even government spokespeople are refusing to talk to Iraqi journalists, probably because they do not want to be seen approving the government’s tactics. In other words, unless the prime minister can bring the crisis under control in the next couple of days his own administration may begin to implode.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, Shias and Sunnis 
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  1. In a few days the arbeen pilgrimage is about to begin. Last year the total attendance was 20 million (the biggest in the world) and even bigger than the haj.
    This has something to do with it and I feel it’s an uprising sponsored by some foreign state as is the “house slaves” rioting by the Hong Kong idiots.

    • Replies: @Hossein
    , @Frank Frivilous
  2. Daniel H says:

    The corruption: there is not a damned thing that an outsider can do about this. This is the Arab world; has always been such and will always be. Only the iron fist of a smart and ruthless dictator can even hope to bring about efficient and honest government, but we know where this leads.

    I guess if much of the looted cash gets reinvested in Iraq – instead of being stashed away in offshore banks – the corruption can act as a fiscal stimulus of a sort, but it is a sad situation.

    • Replies: @9/11 Inside job
  3. unit472 says:

    Trump needs to get American troops out of Iraq before the regime collapses. After that let Iraq disintegrate. If its oil production does a Libya, so much the better as China’s economy will be strangled and American oil companies profit.

    • Replies: @mr meener
  4. A123 says:

    Iraq is an artificial construct with borders that make little historical or geographic sense.

    To create a stable & unified country within these borders, authority and the associated responsibility would have to be equitably shared between Shia, Sunni, and Kurd. After decades of Sunni Ba’ath party abuse, neither the Shia nor the Kurds are enthusiastic about such a solution. And, the Sunni are not unreasonably afraid of being steamrolled.

    Many will try to point at the U.S. If you have a time machine and can undo the mistake, please use it. If not, realize that stone throwing at W, while fun and well-deserved is unproductive. In the aftermath, the U.S. has attempted to keep the unified Iraq concept going by supporting the Sunni ‘Awakening’ (1) and quashing Barzani’s move towards Kurdish independence (2). However, no outside power can force Sunni, Shia, and Kurd to cooperate.

    Iraqi unity is further complicated by the large Persian Shia presence in adjacent Iran. Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of Iraq’s mostly Arab Shia, has been engaged in almost Bill Clinton like triangulation for some time. He wants Shia support from Iran. Simultaneously he must keep his power base, which requires Arab independence from Persian influence.
    _____

    The other alternative is allowing these groups to separate. Purely on internal dynamics, this option makes a huge amount of sense. With the exception of a small area around Kirkuk, borders could readily be defined. This could result in three independent nations or a loose federation.

    The catch here is that Iraq and Turkey share the same incoherent border legacy. Anything that weakens Iraqi cohesion could easily have the same impact on Turkey. Thus, Turkey is violently opposed to anything that looks like a partition.
    _____

    -A- The three groups seem perpetually unable to share power.
    -B- A partition that eliminates the need for power sharing remains off the table.

    Until -A- or -B- changes, it is hard to see any road that leads to a stable, permanent, & peaceful outcome.

    PEACE 😇

    _____

    (1) https://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/oct/1/us-push-new-sunni-awakening-iraq/

    (2) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-kurds-barzani-idUSKBN1CY0KR

  5. @A123

    Mr Alsadr himself is a Persian and as such his loyalty is to the Persian regime in Tehran. Most of the reactionary Marjaeya in Iraq are persians who used to work for Savak against Iraq and then continued their activities after regime change in Persia. Saddam Hussain was a real idiot allowing those monsters to continue cultivating seeds of sectarianism and espionage against his country. A fatal mistake .

    it is the plague of sectarianism that has torn Iraq apart mostly and that is squarely to blame on the Perisian theocratic regime that is cleverly using Shia VS Sunni as a tool to destabilize Iraq and expand it’s sphere of influence.
    The Iraqis best chance of regaining their independence is to rid their homeland of turbaned Rasputins . These are the same Rasputins who opened their airspace to western air forces who unleashed a murderous assault upon Iraq and it’s people. The collusion between the Mullas and the Neocon Zionists against Iraq is a well known fact.

    If Iraq is to regain it’s independence and restore dignity then the first step should be to deport every mulla back to Persia and get rid of those reactionary maggots once and for all .

  6. Hossein says:
    @Rev. Spooner

    You are saying that because these people want to regain their independence and throw the criminal Mullas into the dust bin of history.
    What is Arbeen? A bunch of nut cases rubbing mud on their faces crawling to the tomb of a dead dude These rituals have zero connection neither to islam not Arabic tradition and were created by the persians as a tool to spread their influence in the vulnerable neighboring Arab countries such as Iraq and Bahrain.

    The Iraqis need to rid their country of those maggots ,the mullas , and raze all of those tombs by bulldozers for they have been nothing but a curse upon their country , society and the region at large.

    • Replies: @Ian Smith
    , @Svevlad
    , @anonymous
  7. Ian Smith says:
    @Hossein

    Abdullah Ibn Saba did nothing wrong.

    By the way, Hossein is a curious moniker for someone who hates Persians and Shia so much! It would be like if I started raving against Rhodesians.

    • Replies: @NegroPantera
  8. How different would things now be if, back in 2003, we had put all of Iraqi’s oil into an independent Trust authority, whose only responsibility was to charge private companies for highest-bidder oil leases, collect royalties, and then send a pro rata share of the revenue to every Iraqi.

  9. tyrone says:

    There must be a rule ,every American president has to wreck some small country .

  10. Biff says:

    The Humpty Dumpty story continues.

  11. Drigh says:

    It’s all divide and rule by the colonial masters. No one has the gumption to undo what the british and French did in that region.

    • Replies: @The Anti-Gnostic
  12. The excellent points in this article still miss something more.

    Current estimates of Iraq’s population are a big shaky, but they run around 40 million, of which an unusually large percentage are children. The vagueness and the loss of so many adults able to work to support it is a result of decades of war and chaos.

    The oil income of $6.5 billion/month is huge, but it is only about $160/month per capita. It isn’t enough to live on, the way for example the Saudis try to live on so much more for so many fewer, and even the Saudis favor a portion of their population over the rest who are neglected.

    Iraq needs an economy in addition to oil. It had one, of agriculture and light industry. That was ruined by the American bombing then invasion. Their economy is now buried underneath decades of destruction ravaging every part of it, with even its basic infrastructure now torn down. There are even water shortages along the great twin rivers of ancient civilization.

    Mesopotamia has been civilized since civilization began, and Sargon the Great (2330 BC), founder of the Akkadian Empire, made it the first great Empire of mankind. Yet now? No water, no light industry, it can’t even grow food.

    Stealing the oil is a problem, but it is only a part of a much larger problem, of the destruction of the society as a functioning economy. For that, we can thank Saddam’s wars, but also sanctions, US bombing, Paul Bremer’s deliberate experiement with radical libertarian theory, and only then the vast corruption choking it off today. The oil isn’t the half of what is being choked, huge though it is.

    • Replies: @mr meener
    , @unit472
  13. mr meener says:
    @unit472

    IT WAS THE US ARMY DESTROYED IRAQ. THE IRAQ GOVT SHOULD DESTROY THE US TROOPS THERE AND BLOW UP THE US EMBASSY

  14. mr meener says:
    @Mark R. Thomason, Sr.

    I say the oil is being stolen by israel

  15. @Ian Smith

    Nonsense. You are pissed because i told the truth about your glorified bearded Rasputins .

    This is not about hatred of the persians nor Shias for i am neither a Moslim or Arab. I simply support their nationalist movement against a new colonialist theocracy.
    There is no difference between the colonial ambitions of the Zionists and the Persian colonial theocracy for they both have the same intention . One uses the bible and historical lies to justify the promised land and the other uses deceptive sectarian terror to achieve the goal of so called “greater Iran”.

    • Replies: @Commentator Mike
  16. buzzwar says:
    @A123

    Most if not all the countries are artificial constructs. The US is an artificial construct. But the example par excellence of an artificial construct is Israel.

    • Replies: @The Anti-Gnostic
    , @A123
  17. unit472 says:
    @Mark R. Thomason, Sr.

    It is perhaps true that US air power destroyed Mosul but that was at the direction of the Iraqi Army seeking to reclaim the city from ISIS. Other than that campaign the US military did not bomb Iraqi cities or industrial facilities. It attacked Iraqi military units in 1990 and 2003. The actual invasion of Iraq was only a two week campaign to topple Saddam.

    US involvement should have ended at that point by simply handing over the administration of Iraq to the Iraqi military, there being no other institutions with the capacity. Trying to cobble together a civil government in a country that had known nothing but 30 years of Saddam’s dictatorship was way beyond the ability of the US government and, as we have seen, pretty much beyond the ability of the Iraqi’s themselves. Partition makes sense except neither Ankara, Tehran or Baghdad wants to see a Kurdish state and the Gulf monarchies don’t want to see a Shia dominated Iraqi rump state either.

  18. @Drigh

    When was the last time the Middle East consisted of sovereign nation-states–before Christ? And even as late as Britain and France kicking out the Ottomans, it was still an arid, mostly empty and agrarian region. Now there’s oil and 10x the population, and they want bourgeois toys and creature comforts just like everybody else.

    Your point is well taken: the British and French officers who got out their rulers and drew all those lines on their maps were ignorant and did an awful job. But that’s just the most recent of the Middle East’s problems.

  19. @NegroPantera

    So NegroPantera, you are Hossein are you?

  20. Svevlad says:
    @Hossein

    I have the solution

    Mass global conversion to Orthodoxy

    problem solved!

  21. @buzzwar

    The modern Israeli nation-state has a common creed, common people, and a geographic redoubt. It’s no more “artificial” than anywhere else; it’s actually more organic than a lot of places.

    • Replies: @SaneClownPosse
    , @buzzwar
  22. Murican style freedom. USA! USA!

    “kleptocratic state which has stolen as much as $450bn since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.”

    All central governments/banks are kleptocratic.

  23. @The Anti-Gnostic

    Israel is based on a fiction. Converted Eurasian Jews have no natural claim to Palestine. Do Ethiopian Jews have a place in Palestine?

    • Replies: @The Anti-Gnostic
  24. @A123

    Break Iraq up like the global elites did to Yugoslavia.

    Or create a US of Iraq. Works for America. /sarc

  25. buzzwar says:
    @The Anti-Gnostic

    A place where you can find the full spectrum of the human races from the black man to the Nordic type, and all what comes in between. you call that common people. And what creed are talking about when most of them are godless zionists. What´s more, Israel is the only “country” in the world with ever expanding borders.

    • Replies: @The Anti-Gnostic
  26. @SaneClownPosse

    Who has a “natural claim” to anywhere? If they took it, and can keep it, then it’s theirs. Good luck getting every y-haplogroup back to its original patch of dirt.

  27. @buzzwar

    Sure. And there are auburn-haired, hazel-eyed Syrians. And Russia just expanded its borders to incorporate Crimea and Hong Kong is in the process of disappearing as an autonomous territory. If you don’t hold someone else will take.

    • Replies: @buzzwar
  28. A123 says:
    @buzzwar

    Most if not all the countries are artificial constructs. The US is an artificial construct.

    You are not wrong…. However, most national boundaries try to follow some sort of logic.

    The boundaries in the Middle East are especially bad. I generally hate conspiracy theories, however some of the divisions are so anti-logical it is hard to believe they were accidentally drawn that way.

    For example, “Why were the Kurds unnecessarily divided among four non-Kurdish countries?”

    I guess it could simply be massive incompetence. It is hard to go wrong ‘Betting on Stupid’. But, a random collection of lawn gnomes would have done better job.

    PEACE 😇

    • Replies: @buzzwar
  29. anonymous[307] • Disclaimer says:
    @A123

    [Iraq is an artificial construct with borders that make little historical or geographic sense.]

    You zionist criminal baby killer: It is apartheid entity where is ARTIFICIAL with little historical or geographic sense coward liar and thief.
    You should get lost from the region. The ‘jewish state is in New York criminal zionists.

    Destroy the criminal tribe now.

  30. anonymous[307] • Disclaimer says:
    @Hossein

    Iraq must kick the invaders and its extension, Saudis, Israelis, out and destroy their agents who are responsible for this riot.

    You are going to be destroyed completely soon traitors.

    How long do you want to kiss the criminal zionists/imperalists’ behind? get lost

    • Replies: @Hossein
  31. @Rev. Spooner

    “House Slaves Rioting…” this comment fairly reeks of personal privilege. I’m going to hazard a guess that this commentator hasn’t an inkling what it’s like to be dispossessed in your own homeland. Get a clue buddy, the time is coming when the princelings of Riyadh and Peking will have no where to hide.

  32. Hossein says:
    @anonymous

    Nonsense and screw the Zionists and the reactionary Saudi regime as well. You are using those as an excuse to justify the incursion into Iraq by the invading Persian expansionists ,
    The Zionists used extreme violence to conquer Palestine and the persian theocratic regime is using sectarian terrorism to commit the same deed. No difference.

    The iraqis, i hope , should close down Persian and Saudi embassies and throw out anyone associated with those sectarian tyrannies.
    The Mullas and in particular Sadr and Sistani, both agents of Persian neo colonialism and supporters of invasion and destruction of Iraq by the Neocon Zionists should be deported back to their shit holes in Iran where they can continue worship the dead and beat their chests to death,

  33. anon[784] • Disclaimer says:

    As an American I have no clue what to make of the factions and quarrels in the Middle East, and because I read a lot I probably know more about the area than the people who run US foreign policy.
    As George Washington said, we should stay out of entanglement in foreign alliances. We should not have an empire and should not have hegemony. We can sit back and enjoy the show as Russia, China, and everyone else in Eurasia quarrels over the Middle East. We can trade with the winners, whoever they happen to be.
    We have enough oil, natural resources, and consumer market in the the US and western hemisphere to do be prosperous without the Middle East. It is megalomania for us to have grand designs in that part of the world.
    For the good of our own country we should get out, get out, get out…

    • Replies: @another fred
  34. @Hossein

    Iran/Persia has not invaded anybody since 1770. Your foam-flecked ranting is possibly persuasive to you, but to nobody else.

  35. @Daniel H

    Patrick Buchanan might say something like this : “The corruption : there is not a damned thing that an outsider can do about this . This is the US Congress ; has always been such and will always be , the Democrats and Republicans are two wings of the same bird of prey and continue to prey on Iraq, the Ukraine , Afghanistan , Venezuela … “

  36. @A123

    Iraq [The world] is an artificial construct with borders that make little historical or geographic sense.

    … it is hard to see any road that leads to a stable, permanent, & peaceful outcome.

    The part replaced by the ellipsis (…) is just attempting to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

  37. @anon

    For the good of our own country we should get out, get out, get out…

    We should, but then, as Washington said, we should never have gotten in.

    –As for me: laugh at me. I agree with you. It is a foolish business to
    see the future and screech at it.
    One should watch and not speak. And patriotism has run the world through
    so many blood-lakes: and we always fall in.

    https://www.best-poems.net/robinson_jeffers/so_many_blood_lakes.html

    The link is to a poem, written in the 40s, that is not very good “poesy”, but good philosophy. Our path has been easy to predict.

  38. buzzwar says:
    @A123

    “The boundaries in the Middle East are especially bad”.
    It applies to Europe as well. According to this logic The french speaking Swiss and Belgians must have been part of France . And the Alsatians must join Germany. There are many other examples in Europe and elsewhere throughout the world. it is not specific to the middle east.

  39. buzzwar says:
    @The Anti-Gnostic

    Don´t agree. Crimea belongs to Russia. Ask the Crimean (77% speak Russian as native language). Hong Kong, another artificiel construct, is Chinese territory.

  40. Mullas running prostitution ring in Iraq . Temp marriage for pleasure , blessed and promoted by Persian clerics.
    Disgraceful, disgusting and worse than Epstein pedo gang .

    Shame on anyone who supports these monsters.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/06/pleasure-marriages-iraq-baghdad-bbc-investigation-child-prostitution

    • Replies: @anonymous
  41. anonymous[307] • Disclaimer says:
    @NegroPantera

    How many names do you have?

    Hossein or negrofool, or david or A123 or any other stupid name is not going to protect
    your true zionist face, TROll

    • Replies: @Hossein
  42. Bianca says:

    Iraqis big problem is not internet, but food on the table and some hope for future . For as long as foreign troops are there, they will have neither. There will be no economic development, no infrastructure , no trade with neighbors, as foreign presence is dragging on and on.
    They can change government and this will change nothing. Until occupation ends.

  43. Hossein says:
    @anonymous

    Sistani, the Persian Rasputin, in his filthy books recomended marrying 9 year old girls. He is a pedo and probably a boy lover like most of the mullas.

    Read the article . People inside his office are involved in this pedo ring and so are other prominent Mullas and militia leaders currently butchering Iraqi revolutionaries on the streets.

    Mullas have used this temp marriage as a tool to turn societies into whore houses .
    This disgusting , cruel and sadistic assault on poor children of Iraq is neither islamic nor Arab. It is a Persian tradition being used to tear the fabric of iraqi society .
    In ancient times persians used marry their moms and sisters and now they are practicing SIGHA or temp marriage which basically is paying for a quickie with mostly poor women and girls .
    This type of prostitution is approved by highest members of Marjiya in Qom .
    The pedo Rasputins , the Mullas, are committing the same acts as Epstein pedo ring pimping young girls for money and political influence.

    Mullasteins and Epsteins are made of the same evil cloth. No difference.

  44. anonymous[307] • Disclaimer says:

    Now everyone knows ‘NegroPantera’ is ‘Hossein’

    NegroPantera = Hossein = Troll

  45. Just a note: Iraq has been in a state of civil war since our invasion.

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