Protests in Iraq calling for system overhaul:
In the past couple of weeks, Iraqis have taken to the streets of Southern Iraq, demanding the current ruling government to step down, as well as an overhaul of the whole political system and elite set up by the US following their invasion in 2003 aimed at removing Saddam Hussein. The protests erupted over the failure of the government in the Iraqi people’s eyes in instilling any form of political or economic stability in the nation. This has been driven by anger over official corruption, high unemployment and poor public services, the protesters have dismissed government pledges to enact limited economic reforms, pressing instead for the removal of the entire political class. The protests have resulted in extreme violence on the streets, as more than 300 people have been killed by security forces since the demonstrations began on October 1. The US has once again stepped in to try and find a befitting solution, officially calling for an early election, but the protesters do not want this snap election, as they believe it will not solve the political issues in the country. For many, the quota-based system set up by the US since the defeat of Saddam Hussein over the years allowed certain individuals and groups to enrich themselves and expand their influence – all the while much of the oil-rich country’s population continued to endure severe economic hardship and poor public services.
This is a threat to Iranian influence
The protests in Iraq have been seen by many as not only a sign of dissent of the ruling regime but also towards Iranian meddling in the country, to which a common theme can be found in Lebanon, where protests have also broken out. The US has seen is and take advantage of this to try to increase the negative publicity towards the Iranian regime’s policies, using the recent protests in Iraq and Lebanon against Iran’s “system” to create additional leverage against the clerical regime. Highlighting how Iran’s meddling in their countries has enriched Iran’s local placemen and the clerics, security officials, and regime insiders will strike a chord with the young crowds yearning for justice and economic opportunity. Furthermore, it appears Iraq’s ruling elite have only strengthened their reliance on Iranian policies, after rallying behind a strategy, blessed by Iran, to try to survive a mass anti-government uprising by containing protests on the streets of Baghdad while offering a package of political reforms and elections next year.
Why are Iraqi Kurds not taking part?
Since the start of the protests against the Iraqi government, there were some plans by the Kurdish people to join the protests, but they did not go through, as the Kurdish intelligence and governance did not give the green light. Some said that in the Kurdish region, they face similar problems to those that have driven the protests in the south, including corruption and a lack of job prospects for young people. Youth unemployment is officially over 20 per cent in the region and 25 per cent nationwide. However, people did not seem to be in the mood for protesting; some appeared jaded, while others said they were apprehensive of the possibility of political changes that could undermine Kurdish autonomy. This comes after several Kurdish protests in recent years, as the Kurdish region has also witnessed mass dissent against the regional government, demanding immediate action on corruption, better economic opportunities, better governance and basic services.