Is change likely in Iraq?

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Ongoing events in Iraq

A Dec. 20, 2019 Brookings Institution article is entitled: “Is change likely in Iraq?”

An excerpt (I have omitted embedded links within the text) reads:

The unrest involves a wide range of social groups and numerous parts of Iraq, suggesting the depth of popular anger at the government, resentment towards the heavy Iranian role, and dissatisfaction with difficult living conditions in Iraq. Iraq is one of the world’s most corrupt countries, and protesters unsurprisingly rail against this. Many other problems, such as the government’s decision to transfer and snub Lieutenant General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, the popular counterterrorism service commander who led the fight against the Islamic State in Mosul, are often seen in that light, with protesters believing that the general was being punished for refusing to go along with corruption.

A high body count is adding to popular rage. Specifics are elusive, but Iraqi security forces and paramilitary groups, operating with support and direction from Iran, have killed at least 400 Iraqis and injured several thousand more. Important Iraqi figures, such as the popular Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, have called for new leadership and a rejection of foreign influence. Many other leaders are publicly embracing at least some of the protesters’ agenda while at the same time worrying about their possible loss of power and looking for opportunities to ride this wave.

A Dec. 26, 2019 CBC article is entitled: “Iraq’s president rejects Iran-backed PM nominee to ‘avoid more bloodshed’. Country plunged into further political uncertainty amid 3 months of protests.”

An excerpt reads:

Iraq’s president refused on Thursday to designate a prime minister candidate nominated by an Iran-backed parliamentary bloc, plunging the country into further political uncertainty amid nearly three months of unprecedented mass protests.

Iraqi President Barham Salih said in a statement issued by his office that he would not name the governor of the southern Basra province, Asaad al-Eidani, as the country’s next prime minister “to avoid more bloodshed and in order to safeguard civil peace.”

Al-Eidani’s name was proposed on Wednesday by the Fatah bloc, which includes leaders associated with the Iran-supported paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces. His nomination was promptly rejected by Iraqi protesters who poured into the streets Wednesday demanding an independent candidate.

A Jan. 2, 2020 Brookings Institution article is entitled: “Around the halls: Experts discuss the recent US airstrikes in Iraq and the fallout.”

An excerpt reads:

The storming of the embassy was partly the proxies reasserting their presence in the country and partly an attempt to diminish the protest movement. For the coming weeks, they’ll have the upper hand in the political theater, which is precisely what they wanted. Their rivals can only hope they won’t be able to sustain the momentum.


A Jan. 1, 2020 Lawfare article is entitled: “The Law and Consequences of the Recent Airstrikes in Iraq.”

An excerpt reads:

The U.S. decision to directly target Iranian affiliates within Iraq without the permission of Congress or the Iraqi government raises a number of difficult legal and policy questions. As a legal matter, the airstrikes are consistent with measures the United States claims the legal authority to pursue in defense of its personnel, under both domestic and international law. Yet this conclusion relies on certain idiosyncratic interpretations of international law and related facts that Iraqis are almost certain to reject, contributing to the view that U.S. actions violated Iraq’s sovereignty.

As a policy matter, the resulting U.S. overreach is likely how Iran and its allies hoped the United States would respond to their provocations. By stepping into this familiar trap, the Trump administration has once again made the United States the focus of Iraqis’ ire, relieving some of the pressure on Iran that has been building over several months of popular protests in Iraq. The results are unlikely to fundamentally change the broader regional struggle between the United States and Iran. But they may have lasting implications for the increasingly tenuous relationship between Iraq and the United States, whose future is now more uncertain than ever.

New Yorker, September 2013

A Sept. 13, 2013 New Yorker article is entitled: “The Shadow Commander: Qassem Suleimani is the Iranian operative who has been reshaping the Middle East. Now he’s directing Assad’s war in Syria.”

An excerpt reads:

The Axis of Evil speech brought the meetings to an end. Reformers inside the government, who had advocated a rapprochement with the United States, were put on the defensive. Recalling that time, Crocker shook his head. “We were just that close,” he said. “One word in one speech changed history.”