Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Protesters

Protesters stand amidst tear gas fumes as they clash with Iraqi riot police during a demonstration against state corruption and poor services, between the capital Baghdad's Tahrir Square and the high-security Green Zone district, on Oct. 1, 2019. (Photo: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

Iraqi Crowds Erupt in Joyous Celebrations as PM, Elected Under Bush Constitution, Offers to Resign

Demonstrators have been demanding an end to corruption and the provision of services.

Juan Cole

 by Informed Comment

AFP Arabic reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdulmahdi said Friday he would tender his resignation this weekend after five weeks of massive protests throughout Iraq.

Huge crowds of demonstrators throughout Baghdad broke into raucous celebrations at the news, the local stringers for AFP report. Some interviewees among them, however, said that while Abdulmahdi's departure would be a good first step, it was only the beginning of needed changes. The demonstrators have been demanding an end to corruption and the provision of services.

Violence nevertheless continued on Friday, with from six to 18 persons shot dead by security forces in the southern provisional city of Nasiriya, while in Baghdad at least one protester was killed at Rashid Street and 18 wounded. The two-day total of protester deaths was estimated at 50, according to Al Jazeera English.

The large protests in Nasiriya and the violent response by the government and allied militiamen led the powerful clan chieftains there to call for the minister of defense, Najah al-Shammari, to be arrested and tried.

Abdulmahdi's announcement may have in part been impelled by Grand Ayatollah Sistani, who called on parliament to withdraw confidence from the government and cause it to fall and to arrange for new, clean elections, according to Al-Zaman (the Times of Baghdad). He said a new government must meet the demands of the protesters for the sake of Iraq's future and cease shedding the blood of innocents. Unlike the Ayatollahs or high Shiite clerics of Iran, Sistani does not believe that the clerics should rule and seldom directly intervenes in everyday politics. He does hold that Ayatollahs have a responsibility to intervene to preserve a righteous, Islamic structure of society. His intervention is thus a sign of extreme anxiety on his part about the future of Iraq, which has had a Shiite-led government since the Bush administration held parliamentary elections in 2005 and Sistani encouraged voters to back a coalition of Shiite parties.

Even the Shiite militias backed by Iran that had supported Abdulmahdi, some of which are also party-militias with representation in parliament, said they would acquiesce in Sistani's wishes. They have been accused of helping security forces attempt to repress the protests with sniping and live fire, at the direction of Iran's intelligence services.

Iraq suffers from political gridlock and corruption in part because of the way the Bush administration rebuilt the government after the U.S. launched a war of aggression and militarily occupied the country for 8.5 years. A handful of parties that were willing to ally with Bush have dominated politics ever since, and the Iraqi constitution produced under American rule all but guarantees a series of hung parliaments and a tyranny of the majority. The victorious parties practice a spoils system, capturing cabinet ministries and filling these departments with their own party hacks.

Iraq's oil sales receipts since 2005 are estimated to have been at least $500 billion, but the national treasury is empty and all that money seems to have been embezzled. Although Iraq is an oil state, when I was in Baghdad a few years ago I found it run down and dowdy, with few new buildings and nothing like the vast array of gleaming skyscrapers that adorn Doha and Dubai.

The current Iraqi minister of defense, Najah al-Shammari, is a dual Swedish citizen and is being investigated for welfare fraud there, taking government payouts for his family's living costs. If only he were unusual. Members of the Iraqi protest movement blame him for the hundreds of innocent civilian protesters who have been killed by Iraqi security forces, and Sweden appears to be investigating him for war crimes as well. Al-Shammari denies the charges.

Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Al Jazeera English: "Iraqi PM to resign after deadly anti-government protests"


© 2021 Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Nearly Two Dozen GOP States Attempting to Use Covid Relief Funds for Tax Cuts

Numerous Republican states, having benefited from federal coronavirus aid funds, are "pushing for income tax cuts that would deliver outsized gains to wealthy residents and profitable corporations."

Jake Johnson ·


'Congress Must Do More NOW,' Sanders Says After Mass Shooting at July 4th Parade

"Today's terrible shooting in Highland Park is the latest reminder of our nation's deadly gun violence epidemic," the Vermont senator said. "Grocery stores. Schools. Churches. Fourth of July parades."

Jake Johnson ·


'Bloodbath': At Least 6 Dead, Dozens Wounded in Mass Shooting at Illinois July 4th Parade

"What freedom do we have if we fear being gunned down at a parade?" asked one progressive politician horrified by the reported carnage.

Brett Wilkins ·


On This July 4th, Abortion Rights Movement Says 'We're Not in the Mood for Fireworks'

"If we don’t have the ability to make decisions about if, when, and how to grow our families—we don't have freedom."

Brett Wilkins ·


Deadly Glacier Collapse in Italy 'Linked Directly to Climate Change'

At least seven people were killed when a glacier slid down a mountainside near a popular climbing route in the Alps on Sunday.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo