Analysis by PMOI/MEK
Iraq, January 21, 2020—Since January 19, demonstrations against the corrupt ruling system in Iraq have taken a new leap. The Iraqi people, especially in the southern provinces of the country, are setting fire to the posters of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the two terrorist masterminds who were killed in a U.S. drone strike on January 3. Protesters in Najaf also set fire to the headquarters of Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia group that has committed numerous crimes in Iraq. In Hellah and Nasiriya, the protesters blocked the main roads. In Baghdad, they resisted against attacks of repressive security forces.
The protesters had given an ultimatum to the government that if their demands are not met by January 18, they would enter a new phase of civil disobedience across the country and would block main highways and entrances to Baghdad. Absent a proper government response, the people and youth of Iraq carried out their threat on Monday, January 20, in Baghdad and other cities. In some locations, demonstrators clashed with security forces, which resulted in the injury and death of several protesters.
Protests continued on Tuesday as the organizers of the uprising declared they would not support a new candidate for the prime minister who is himself involved in governmental corruption. Protesters in Baghdad took control of the Mohammed Ghassem highway as well as major squares included al-Tahrir, al-Khalani, al-Gilani, and al-Tayran. In some areas, protesters resisted security forces and forced them to retreat.
The Iranian regime’s goal to spoil the Iraqi uprising
During the three-and-half months that pass from the beginning of nationwide protests in Iraq, the Iranian regime was pursuing two goals in parallel. Tehran, which has been trying to create a quasi-state for itself through its proxies in its western neighbor, has the most to lose from a national uprising that will uproot corruption from Iraq.
First, it wanted to divert the protests toward the U.S., and second, it wanted to cause rifts among the protesters. The main implementor of this plan was the Iranian regime’s chief terrorist Qassem Soleimani.
This was the aim of an attack by the Kata’ib to an American military base on December 27, which resulted in the death of an American contractor. The attack was followed by a U.S. counterattack against Kata’ib’s positions, which resulted in the death of dozens of the group’s fighters. The Iranian regime tried to take advantage of the opportunity to incite anti-American sentiments and launched a protest rally in front of the U.S. embassy on December 31. But not only did the regime fail in creating momentum in the build-up of tensions with the U.S., but it also lost Soleimani and al-Muhandis in the U.S. drone strike that followed.
With two of its key lieutenants eliminated, the regime is now trying to further its ends through Muqtada al-Sadr, using him like a peon to deceive Iraqi protesters and break up their ranks. Sadr’s most significant measure in this regard is the call for an anti-American protest on the coming Friday.
But the organizers of the nationwide Iraqi protests have already answered the regime’s maneuvers in a statement, which reads, “This is a political call that comes from Iran and has nothing to do with Iraq.” In this regard, the message of Iraqi protesters to Sadr is clear: “If the U.S. is a fever, the Iranian regime is cancer!”
In a statement, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the highest Shiite authority in Iraq, warned against plots to take advantage of the people’s demands in the protests for political goals. Observers and analysts consider Sistani’s remarks as an implicit rejection of Sadr’s call.
The other goal the regime pursued was to exhaust and intimidate the protesters by giving hollow promises and wasting time on the one hand and attacking and killing protesters on the other. In the past months, the regime’s proxy militias and agents have resorted to all forms of terrorist attacks, including snipers, car bombings, assassinations, and more. But the response of the protesters has been clearly spelled out on their banners: “Resistance and patience,” “[The enemy] will tire, but we will not.”
The continued persistence of Iraqi protesters in Tahrir square and other strongholds of the uprising has earned them the respect and support of all segments of the Iraqi society, and every day their numbers are growing.
The reason for the Iranian regime’s defeat in Iraq
There’s no doubt that after 17 years of trying to occupy Iraq through brutal measures and the export of fundamentalism, the Iranian regime is failing in its goal. The increased awareness of the Iraqi people and parallel uprisings in Lebanon and Iran are among the main causes of the regime’s waning power in this country.
The shared grievances and goals of the neighboring people manifested itself in the celebrations that erupted in Iran and Iraq when Soleimani and al-Muhandis were killed, a serious blow to the regime’s apparatus of terror. As resistance leader Massoud Rajavi said in a recent message, “The people of the region have willed to overthrow the religious dictatorship and its agents and mercenaries. The chains will break. And history will bow before the victorious will of our peoples.”