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.

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

Updated 21 January 2020

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

  • Expert says sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in Libyan conflict unlikely

JEDDAH: With the conclusion of the Libya peace summit in Berlin on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether Turkey is willing to implement the provisions of the final communique and stay out of the conflict.

Ankara is accused of sending Syrian fighters to the Libyan battlefront in support of Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

During the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced concerns over the arrival of Syrian and other foreign fighters in Tripoli, saying: “That must end.” 

Samuel Ramani, a geopolitical analyst at Oxford University, speculates that Turkey will not deploy more troops.  

But he told Arab News that a sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in the Libyan conflict is unlikely for the moment as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will remain present “until the GNA’s future is secured.”

Noting the difficulty of enforcing the Berlin agreement, Ramani said Turkey might not be the first mover in breaching a cease-fire in Libya.

But he added that Turkey will not hesitate to deploy forces and upend the agreement if Haftar makes any moves that it considers “provocative.”

The summit called for sanctions on those who violate the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish opposition MPs recently criticized the expanded security pact between Ankara and the GNA, saying the dispatch of materials and equipment to Libya breaches the UN arms embargo.

Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.

Micha’el Tanchum, Analyst

The summit does not seem to have resolved ongoing disputes regarding the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.

The Cypriot presidency accused Turkey of being a “pirate state,” citing Ankara’s recent drilling off its coasts just a day after Brussels warned Turkey that its plans were illegal.

Erdogan dismissed the warning and threatened to send to the EU some 4 million refugees that Turkey is hosting.

Turkey dispatched its Yavuz drillship to the south of Cyprus on Sunday, based on claims deriving from the maritime delimitation agreement with the GNA.

Turkey’s insistence on gas exploration in the region may be subject to sanctions as early as this week, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based political analyst, drew attention to Article 25 of the Berlin final communique, which underlined the “Libyan Political Agreement as a viable framework for the political solution in Libya,” and called for the “establishment of a functioning presidency council and the formation of a single, unified, inclusive and effective Libyan government approved by the House of Representatives.”

Sezer told Arab News: “Getting approval from Libya’s Haftar-allied House of Representatives would be a serious challenge for Ankara because Haftar recently considered all agreements with Turkey as a betrayal. This peace conference once more showed that Turkey should keep away from Libya.”

Many experts remain skeptical about the possible outcome of the summit. 

Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said: “Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.”