Iran on the rack: Demonstrations in Beirut over crackdown in Iraq

Iraqis kept up anti-government protests in Baghdad and the south on Saturday, dissatisfied with the premier’s vow to quit and insisting on the overhaul of the system. (AFP)
Updated 01 December 2019

Iran on the rack: Demonstrations in Beirut over crackdown in Iraq

  • Protesters in two countries unite to denounce Tehran’s violent repression of dissent

BEIRUT: Iran faced anger on two fronts on Saturday as demonstrators in Lebanon took to the streets of Beirut to support protesters in Iraq.

Tehran has orchestrated a violent crackdown on Iraqi protests in which more than 420 people have been killed, and its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon has been accused of complicity in attacks on protesters demonstrating there against corruption and financial hardship.

Demonstrators staged a candlelit vigil outside Iraq’s embassy in Beirut on Saturday to denounce the violence in Baghdad and southern Iraq. They held up photos of Iraqi protesters who have been killed, and one woman wrapped an Iraqi flag around her shoulders.

“The uprising in Iraq and the uprising in Lebanon are one,” said vigil organizer Layal Siblani. “A protester killed there is a protester killed here.” 

Another demonstrator in Beirut said: “We have to stand in solidarity with our Iraqi counterparts who are being arrested and killed on a daily basis.”

Elsewhere in Beirut, the mothers of activists targeted by opponents of the protests marched under banners declaring “nothing divides us” as they voiced their anger over violent attacks on protesters.

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A group of mothers in Tabaris, a largely affluent Christian neighborhood, marched to Khandak El Ghamik, a poorer area with a large number of Amal Movement and Hezbollah supporters.

One woman urged residents of the area not to attack protesters. “Politicians disagree in the day and agree in the evening, and we should not be dragged into incitement,” she said.

Protesters also organized a demonstration outside a barracks of the Internal Security Forces in Beirut, in protest at the arrest of activists.

Meanwhile in Iraq protesters burned tires and surrounded a police station in the southern city of Nassiriya on Saturday. Demonstrations also continued in Baghdad, but there were fewer reports of casualties than on the previous two days.

Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades against protesters for nearly two months, and dozens have been killed in the past few days in Nassiriya and Najaf.

Iraq’s Cabinet on Saturday approved the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, which is expected to be confirmed by Parliament on Sunday.


Soleimani’s successor faces same fate if he kills Americans Iran warned

Updated 14 min 24 sec ago

Soleimani’s successor faces same fate if he kills Americans Iran warned

  • Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani

DUBAI: The US special representative for Iran said the successor to Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike, would suffer the same fate if he followed a similar path of killing Americans, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported.

Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias against US forces in the region. US President Donald Trump ordered the Jan. 3 drone strike in Iraq after a build up of tension over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran responded to the killing of Soleimani, who was charged with expanding Tehran’s influence across the Middle East, by launching missile strikes on US targets in Iraq, although no US soldiers were killed.

After Soleimani’s death, Tehran swiftly appointed Esmail Ghaani as the new head of the Quds Force, an elite unit in the Revolutionary Guards that handles actions abroad. The new commander pledged to pursue Soleimani’s course.

“If (Esmail) Ghaani follows the same path of killing Americans then he will meet the same fate,” Brian Hook told the Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

He said in the interview in Davos that US President Donald Trump had long made it clear “that any attack on Americans or American interests would be met with a decisive response.”

“This isn’t a new threat. The president has always said that he will always respond decisively to protect American interests,” Hook said. “I think the Iranian regime understands now that they cannot attack America and get away with it.”

After his appointment, Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and said the goal was to drive US forces out of the region, which has long been Iran’s stated policy.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have steadily increased since Trump withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and imposed tough news sanctions that have hammered the Iranian economy.

This month’s military flare-up began in December when rockets fired at US bases in Iraq killed a US contractor. Washington blamed pro-Iran militia and launched air strikes that killed at least 25 fighters. After the militia surrounded the US embassy in Baghdad for two days, Trump ordered the drone strike on Soleimani.