unrest in iraq
January 2, 2020

Iraqi militias and their supporters had completely withdrawn from the massive U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad by Wednesday evening after Iraq's government asked them to leave and an umbrella group of state-allied militias called for the withdrawal. Helicopters of U.S. Marines arrived overnight to help guard the main area of the embassy complex. U.S. forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the rock-throwing protesters, who had breached an outer gate Tuesday and set fire to a reception area, among other damage.

The militias, many backed by Iran, appeared prepared to camp outside the embassy on Wednesday morning. They declared a sort of victory upon decamping to outside the Green Zone. "We pulled out from this place triumphantly," Fadhil al-Gezzi, a militia supporter, told The Associated Press. "We rubbed America's nose in the dirt." The politically powerful militias, with little resistance from Iraqi security forces, had stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone and U.S. embassy in response to U.S. airstrikes Sunday that killed at least 25 members of one of the militias, Kataib Hezbollah.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled a trip to monitor the situation from Washington. President Trump, who blamed Iran for the attack, ordered about 750 soldiers to the Middle East, and more than 4,000 additional troops could join them in coming days. Some 5,200 U.S. troops are already in Iraq, and the Iran-backed protesters said one of their goals in storming the embassy was to push for the removal of the U.S. forces. Since May, Trump has sent more than 14,000 troops to the Persian Gulf area to counter Iran.

Before Sunday's U.S. airstrikes, condemned by Iraq's government, Baghdad had been buffeted by months of separate deadly street protests against Iran's political influence in Iraq. "Iran has been trying to provoke the U.S. into helping it solve its Iraq problem," said the Crisis Group think tank. "The Trump administration, by responding to the attacks in Kirkuk and elsewhere with airstrikes, has obliged." Peter Weber

December 1, 2019

Iraqi parliament accepted Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's resignation Sunday after weeks of deadly anti-government protests that resulted in 50 deaths Thursday evening.

The demonstrators were pleased by the resignation, but it by no means signals the end of the movement, which wants to see comprehensive reform. "We won't go back home until the PM's resignation triggers the parliament to be dissolved and early elections are held so that all political parties and militias currently in power could be removed," one protester told Al Jazeera.

That means Baghdad still has a lot of work to do, and things are up in the air at the moment.

The next step involves President Barham Salih nominating Mahdi's successor. The decision will stem from the recommendation of the largest political bloc in parliament. Until then, Mahdi's government will serve in a caretaker role.

A "political tug of war" is expected to take place en route to establishing a successor government, and parliamentary blocs will try to forge alliances with one another. But there are doubts about whether a consensus government will emerge as some semblance of Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish political parties will be required to find common political ground. Read more at Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

November 29, 2019

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Friday announced his resignation following Wednesday's firebombing of the Iranian consulate in Najaf and weeks of antigovernment protests that have left hundreds dead, The New York Times reports. In a statement, Mahdi said that his decision would allow Iraq to "preserve the blood of its people, and avoid slipping into a cycle of violence, chaos, and devastation," although his successor has not been named.

At least 400 protesters have been killed since the beginning of October, with 40 shot dead by security forces in three cities Thursday and early Friday. The demonstrators, a mix of educated, urban idealists and working-class Shiite Muslims, have been protesting perceived government corruption, as well as unemployment and what they see as Iran's influence over the country. Jacob Lambert

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