Iraqi citizens fed up with corruption, unemployment and lack of basic necessities continue months of protests, as violence intensifies.
For several months, Iraqis in Baghdad and several other Southern cities have been protesting lack of services and what is viewed as rampant corruption. Roughly 80% of the government’s revenue comes from oil sales and the oil industry, and about 50% of expenditures go directly to public sector salaries and pensions (The National, 2018). With the obvious expenditures on military and security, this leaves very little to cover basic government services. More money spent on government employees’ salaries and pensions in Baghdad just intensifies an already enormous income gap facing the country. Add that to a quickly growing labor workforce without much work, and you have ripe conditions for angry dissent.
Many Iraqis are growing tired of Iranian “influence”
Although the majority of Iraqis share a common religious bond with the Shia-Muslim theocracy, Iran and Iraq have a storied past that cannot be viewed on the basis of a common religion alone. Although Sunni Autocrat Saddam Hussein ruled over the majority Shia populated Iraq for decades, he fed the flames of millennia old Arab-Persian rivalries that culminated in the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980’s: a time many Iraqis still remember. Fast forward to the post-Saddam era, Iraq has been the central piece to an Iranian effort to establish a Persian-dominated Shia Crescent (from Lebanon to Iran). Iran sent millions of dollars in lethal and non-lethal aid to Iraq’s many Shia militia groups since the early days of Iraq forming its own government, attempting to disrupt that process. Iran unquestionably fueled the sectarian fighting that has plagued Iraq for the past 17 years. This is a fact that Iraqis are well aware of, and stopping it has become a central demand of these recent protests.
The controversial Prime Minister pick that will NOT be
Adil Abdul-Mahdi resigned as Prime Minister last November and the Iraqi government has been trying to find an effective replacement since then. According to the last revision of the Iraqi Constitution, the Prime Minister acquired far more executive powers and is also head of the legislature. A new Prime Minister is supposed to be nominated by the President (Head of State) and then confirmed via the legislative body. For weeks, the successor candidate has been Assad Al Eidani, a politician with very strong ties to Iran and the previously mentioned Shia Militias in Iraq. As the protestors’ demands against Iranian influence have intensified, the President of Iraq, Barham Salih, announced on Monday: “Out of my keenest to avoid bloodshed and protect civil peace, I will NOT name Assad Al Eidani as a candidate for the next Prime Minister.”
The National, December 13, 2018