Iraqi protesters torch Iranian consulate after Abdel Mahdi fall

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An Iraqi demonstrator carries the national flag in Najaf on Sunday, where protests continued to rage. (Reuters)
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Iraqi mourners carry the coffin of Haidar Ahmed Kazem, a high school student who was killed a day earlier, during his funeral procession in Tahrir square in the capital Baghdad, on Dec. 1, 2019. (Sabah Arar/AFP)
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Medical crew carry a wounded man during ongoing anti-government protests in Najaf Sunday, (Reuters)
Updated 02 December 2019

Iraqi protesters torch Iranian consulate after Abdel Mahdi fall

  • Abdel Mahdi said he would submit resignation following spike in the death toll among protesters
  • Iraqi protesters set fire to Iranian consulate in Najaf for second time in a week

BAGHDAD: Iraqi protesters set fire to the Iranian consulate in Najaf on Sunday for the second time in a week, as demonstrations continued despite the confirmation of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi’s resignation.
More than 420 people have been killed in a violent Iranian-orchestrated response to two months of protests against corruption, economic hardship and failed public services.
In a victory for the protesters, a police major was sentenced to death and a lieutenant colonel was jailed for seven years for killing seven civilians in the southern city of Kut in November.
Pope Francis on Sunday joined criticism of the crackdown. “I am following the situation in Iraq with concern. It is with pain that I have learned of the protest demonstrations of the past days that were met with a harsh response,” said the pope, who wants to visit Iraq next year.
Meanwhile, funerals took place for dead protesters, and mourners marched for the first time in Salaheddin, a Sunni-majority province north of Baghdad.
Eight Shiite provinces also announced a day of mourning during which government offices would remain shut.
Clashes continued in Najaf, where armed men in civilian clothes fired on protesters who had torched part of a Shiite shrine.
Abdel Mahdi resigned last week under pressure from the influential Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and Parliament on Sunday confirmed the fall of his government. President Barham Saleh will now be asked to name a successor.
Protesters demanded wider change. “Abdel Mahdi should go — and so should Parliament and the political parties and Iran,” said one demonstrator in Baghdad.

Iraq’s parliament voted on Sunday to accept the resignation of Abdul Mahdi. His decision to quit on Friday came after a call by Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani for parliament to consider withdrawing its support for Abdul Mahdi’s government to stem the violence.
“The Iraqi parliament will ask the president of state to nominate a new prime minister,” a statement from parliament’s media office said.
MPs said Abdul Mahdi’s government, including the prime minister himself, would stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is chosen.
Under the constitution, President Barham Salih is expected to ask the largest bloc in parliament to nominate a new prime minister to form a government, a move expected to trigger weeks of political wrangling.
 


Successor to slain Iran general faces same fate if he kills Americans: US envoy

Updated 23 January 2020

Successor to slain Iran general faces same fate if he kills Americans: US envoy

  • Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias against US forces in the region
  • Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and said the goal was to drive US forces out of the region

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.