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Whatever charade of "democracy" played out in the last fifteen years after the much touted "shock and awe" and "liberation" of Iraq by coalition forces, this past week has blasted that illusion by the quick oppressive and violent reaction of the newly elected government's response to peaceful protest by mostly young students in the streets of Baghdad, and other major cities. The Prime Minister of Iraq, Adel Abdul-Mahdi decided to use "excessive force" on those demonstrating about the deteriorating situation in the country, lack of essential services, rampant corruption and high unemployment rates.
Over 6,000 people were wounded by gunfire, beatings and fire. The number of dead continues to rise over 100. At last count it was 105. time.com/5693902/100-dead-iraq-protest/
In May of 2018, Harith Hasan wrote about the elections of that same year: "...this election has clearly shown the limitations of Iraq’s democracy and the persistent risk of disruption or regression towards less democratic means in the future." www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/the-truth-about-iraq-s-democracy/
Less than six months later autocratic edicts, martial type law, violence and echoes of dictatorial response to protesters against the newly elected government-show the world Iraq is not yet a democracy or a nation with a form of government which can withstand questions, protests, investigations, reporting and/or scrutiny.
One of the responses of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, was to curtail use of the internet and thus shut off the possibility of communications and reporting in most of Iraq. Only the Independent Region of Kurdistan (KRG) in northern Iraq was not affected by the lack of access and by the curfew imposed by the Iraq government in Baghdad. (see tweet and graph below)
Confirmed: #Iraq has partly restored internet access at 7:00 a.m. Baghdad time for the 3rd consecutive morning, making it the first documented country to introduce a nightly internet curfew at nation-scale.
Curfew times: 5:00 p.m. 7:00 a.m.
After the chaos subsided in Baghdad and a number of other cities in Iraq, the Prime Minister announced at the end of the week a three day period of mourning and promised those killed-both demonstrators and security personnel-would be considered as "martyrs" and their families given benefits.
Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric blamed the Baghdad government on Friday for the killing of scores of protesters, and gave it a two-week deadline to find out which “undisciplined elements” had used snipers to shoot them.
"The intervention by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who rarely weighs in on politics except in times of crisis, will place new pressure on Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to curb the power of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias, widely blamed by the public for killing more than 100 protesters in a crackdown." www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-protests-sistani/iraqs-top-shiite-cleric-criticizes-government-over-protester-deaths-idUSKBN1WQ181
As one Iraqi, Dr. Oula Kadhum, living in the UK queries, and observed from afar this week:
"Can we still call Iraq a state?
Power is dispersed along so many political actors, with varying domestic and foreign allegiances, that Iraqi sovereignty is but a mere illusion. There is no political system in Iraq but rather multiple systems (tribes, militias, political parties) with spheres of influence and power. The state has not been captured by an oligarchy but rather dismembered from within by corrupt elites and criminal gangs masquerading as politicians."
The response to the demonstrations by the current Iraq government is eerily similar to the response by Saddam Hussein's government against protesters years ago-see photos below. After war, forced regime change and "democratic elections" what has actually transformed? What progress can be quantified?!
A follow on to my post from last week regarding the Kurds and the situation they are in with Turkey overtly attacking them and their positions in Syria...let us not forget what happened to the Kurdish population in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Iraq has not been an ally or friend of the Kurds. Iraq let the Peshmerga "lead from the front" suffering brutal attacks from Daesh/ISIS. Moreover, thousands of Daesh fighters escaped while under the "guard and round ups" by the Iraq army. The Kurds were never that slack. Kurdish militia members were guarding camps holding Daesh/ISIS detainees in at least 10 camps holding over 140,000 people. Kurdish Pershmerga units have had to shift their priorities once Turkey started their bombardments.
The Kurdish units in Syria who decided to align with Syrian President Bashar al- Assad, make sense in the long view. Kurdish officials in northern Syria will now be working with the Assad government in Damascus to defend against Turkey's military in their region. The Syrians have betrayed the Kurds less than the Iraqi governments over time. The USA and the UK have been dishonest in their dealings with the Kurds since the 1970s. At least President Trump is enacting his policy promises of removing US troops from the Middle East step by step.
Syria is part of ancestral Kurdish heritage and territory. The US and UK populations have shifting allegiances and geographical distance from the Kurds. Though a number of the Kurdish units have openly displayed communist symbols, their particular "comradeship in arms" and "equity in genders" in their military is a counter and balance to the extremism of sharia law and it's dictates against women.
The Russian nexus with the Syrian government began long before their alliance during the civil war in 2011, and their leasing access to a warm water port on the Mediterranean via Syria in Tartus, to Russia in 2014. Leasing a port where transport is possible year round is vital to a virtually landlocked nation, especially if they intend to grow their economy, as Russia does.
People forget that Russia had a pivot toward the Middle East decades ago. Russia cultivated progressive relations with Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) Jordan, Israel, Iran and Syria, and gave varying degrees of support at various times to Egypt and Lebanon. While Russia has provided weapons to all these countries, the US and the UK have provided weapons, training, finance and "humanitarian aid" to all these countries as well, during the 20th and 21st centuries.
Syria is still a "chessboard" for pipeline negotiation games and energy fields. Turkey hovers like a vulture waiting for the carrion of destructive "civil wars" spawned and spurred on by outside forces interested in leveraging political and economic power and the "spoils of war".
As always, it is the civilian populations of both Syria and Iraq who must endure, bleed, re-locate and agonize the most. Once again, the Kurds must capitulate and still do not have their own country where they can form their own nation, re-group and be left in peace to create their own form of government implementing their own cultural traditions without interference or the real risk of genocide from their "neighbors", or the resurgence of Daesh/ISIS which would ultimately impact the entire world.
There was a time after World War II when some of the worst criminals of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich were brought to the US under Operation Paperclip, and tens of thousands were supported to escape to South America. They created their own communities there, and a few former Nazis emerged in those countries as ruthless political and military leaders in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay.
Ending tonight with something human beings have in common since so much of the news has been about differences. Dance and music can and do unite people. Certainly Daesh/ISIS and places which impose strict sharia law would never allow this entertainment, and the young people you see in this video would be censured and punished severely.
Fortunately there is not a world wide "caliphate" and sharia law is not permitted here. This is a group of young Turkish dancers doing their movements to a popular Iraqi song: "Dylan Lingham" "ابراهيم البغدادي - ول ولك"
Dance while you can wherever you are...it's healthy!