Protests grip Iraq’s capital and south despite rising toll

Iraqi demonstrators sit on a building during anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq December 8, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 08 December 2019

Protests grip Iraq’s capital and south despite rising toll

  • Late Friday, unidentified gunmen attacked a parking complex near Tahrir
  • Protesters feared it signalled that their movement would be derailed but by Sunday

BAGHDAD: Thousands of Iraqi protesters streamed into streets and public squares in the capital and restive south on Sunday, saying they were not deterred by deadly violence meant to “scare” them.
In Baghdad, crowds of anti-government demonstrators thronged Tahrir Square, the epicenter of their movement.
Late Friday, unidentified gunmen attacked a parking complex near Tahrir where demonstrators had been squatting for weeks, leaving 20 protesters and four police officers dead, medics told AFP.
Protesters feared it signalled that their movement would be derailed but by Sunday, the numbers gathered under the sun in Tahrir were staggering.
“They’re trying to scare us in whatever ways they can, but we’re staying in the streets,” said Aisha, a 23-year-old protester.
At least 452 people — the vast majority of them protesters — have died and 20,000 have been wounded since the rallies erupted.
In Nasiriyah, a protest hotspot where dozens were killed in a spree of violence last month, protesters regrouped in downtown along with representatives of powerful tribes.
“We will keep protesting until the regime collapses,” pledged Ali Rahim, a student.
In other southern cities, local authorities had declared Sunday — the first day of the work week in Iraq — a holiday for civil servants.
Road blocks and massive strikes also disrupted work in Hilla, Amara, Diwaniya, Kut and the shrine city of Najaf, AFP’s correspondents there said.
The rallies have persisted despite the resignation of premier Adel Abdel Mahdi earlier this month, with protesters demanding the complete ouster of the ruling class.
Iraq is ranked the 12th most corrupt country in the world by watchdog group Transparency International, with billions of dollars pilfered each year from the state budget of OPEC’s second-largest producer.


Saudi Arabia’s Al-Jubeir tells Iran to stop ‘meddling’ in Iraqi affairs

Updated 7 min 38 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Jubeir tells Iran to stop ‘meddling’ in Iraqi affairs

LONDON: Iran should worry more about its own people and stop sponsoring global terrorism, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said on Thursday.
Adel Al-Jubeir, speaking on a World Economic Forum panel about the situation in the Middle East, said the Islamic Republic was responsible for much of the unrest in the region and that leaders in Tehran were the ones who began escalating tensions through their interference in countries such as Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
He added that the Kingdom was concerned about Iranian “meddling” in Iraqi affairs and that it takes its relationship with Iraq “very seriously,” given the long cultural ties and “brotherly relations” between the two countries.
Al-Jubeir also told the audience in Davos that Iranian interference in the region was widespread and unpopular and that it must be stopped, citing examples of Shiite protests in Iraq and Lebanon.
“We do not seek escalation and we are still investigating the Aramco attacks,” he added, referencing drone attacks on oil facilities in the Kingdom in September widely believed to have originated from Iran.
“Iran is behind the Houthi militia missiles coming from Yemen that are targeting Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The Saudi minister added that while Iran has sought the withdrawal of US forces in the Middle East, its ongoing malign behavior in the region has seen the opposite happen.
Following the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassam Soleimani, Iranian officials vowed to remove US forces from the Gulf region.
Al-Jubeir also said that as soon as Iran returned to being a “normal state,” then a restoration of international relations with Tehran would be possible.
When asked about the conflict in Yemen, Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom was working to bring stability back to the country and referenced recent goodwill gestures — including helping humanitarian aid get into the country and the release of 400 Houthi prisoners.
He said Saudi Arabia has reassured the Houthis that they have an “integral role” to play in the future of Yemen, but that they cannot have a “monopoly” on power, adding emphatically: “There will be no new Hezbollah In Yemen.”
Al-Jubeir also said Saudi Arabia was working with Arab and international countries to stabilize the situation in Libya and unify the country, but added the Kingdom was concerned about external interventions and the inflow of foreign troops from Syria into Libya.