Assessing the Lebanon-EU Association Agreement
January 13, 2020

Iraq’s Protest Movement Amid US-Iranian Military Escalation

1. Background

For a few years, various protest movements have shaken Iraq in separate waves. The traditional force to spark the political mobilization among the urban population of Baghdad was the populist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The protests that gained momentum in October 2019, however, differ in the sense that they demonstrate a broader and more profound societal critique of the government’s political balance sheet and that the protesters would not accept any religious or political leadership over their movement.[1]

On October 1, 2019, a two-week insurgency over unemployment, corruption, and poor public services engulfed Baghdad and southern cities such as Nasiriya and Diwaniya.[2] By the end of October 2019, a cross-sectarian, anti-establishment movement built up around civic nationalism and called in the post-2003 order. What quickly became Iraq’s most significant grassroots movement has produced unparalleled symbols of national unity and anti-sectarianism. Not only have the demonstrators called for reforms and the resignation of Adel Abdul Mahdi and his cabinet, many Iraqis now feel able to question the system set up by the US and Iraqi exiles.[3]

The Iraqi government responded violently to the protests, leaving approximately 500 dead and tens of thousands injured.[4] Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced his resignation on December 1, but Iraqis still took to the streets.[5] The developments took an unexpected turn on January 3, when a US drone strike killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the ‘Popular Mobilization Force’ (PMF).[6] The anti-government rallies were put on a back burner and are now at risk of being ground down by the worsening of the US-Iranian military situation. It is also unclear where the Iraqi government will position itself.

It is, therefore, uncertain how the situation will develop. The following paper will discuss the root causes of the protests, illustrate different reactions, and expose the various affiliations of the protestors. It will also attempt to draw a conclusion and outline possible prospects.

2. Causes and Motives

2.1 Socioeconomic Grievances

As socially deprived youths gathered on Baghdad’s east side, calls for socio-economic improvement were the initial mobilizing factor. Two years after the territorial defeat of ISIS, the majority of Iraq’s 40 million population live in poor and impecunious conditions, despite the country’s rich oil wealth. The Shia population–the country’s long-neglected majority–expected a significant improvement in living conditions and social status after the removal of Saddam Hussain. However, these expectations did not materialize.[7] Poverty and job scarcity are consequently on the rise, with youth unemployment estimated to be around 36 percent. With over half a million people entering the job market annually, the long-term prospects seem even more desolate.[8]

One commonly shared critique amongst the people is the government’s inefficiency in regulating a much-needed dynamic private sector. The application of existing regulations has been inconsistent and non-transparent. In the absence of a well-functioning labor market, informal labor activity persists in many sectors. The post-2003 transition from a centrally planned economy to a market-orientated one has created a nouveau riche–usually politically affiliated–but has left many with a precarious employment situation and low wages.[9]

Consequently, corruption and clientelism prevail in all government bodies, ranging from general administration to security apparatuses. Complicated bureaucratic procedures, inefficient regulations, and maladministration–often perceived to be deliberate as exemplified by the curious case of ghost employees appearing on the government’s payroll–further showcases the economic dysfunctionality of state. Furthermore, an overinflated administrative provision consumes most of the federal budget and state revenues. As oil production accounts for 90% of the state revenue, a drop in oil prices has contributed significantly to an emerging fiscal deficit. As a result, state services, such as the provision of electricity, clean water, and road infrastructure, are severely affected by a lack of funds.[10]

2.2 Political Issues

On paper, Iraq features all the characteristics of a democratic Weberian state, e.g., a constitution with regularly held elections, and a trias politica separation of powers. The new political arrangements–initiated in 2003 by the US-led ‘Coalition Provisional Authority’ (CPA) and Iraqi exiles–have resulted in a consociational model that contributed to the institutionalization of sectarianism as a political norm. Based on the heterarchical ethno-sectarian representation, the state system of ‘muhassasa’ has been prone to excessive exploitation.[11]

Instead of providing political participation evenly among Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian groups, sect-centric political and religious elites have created oligopolies of political and economic resources. By channeling the capital into their communities and constituencies, these actors have created almost impervious networks of favoritism and cycles of clientelism. The diffusion of power and resources among a variety of these oligopolies has prevented state institutions from countervailing. The manipulative politicization of ethno-sectarian identity (‘sectarianization’) has contributed to the political and economic exploitation.[12] This scheme has ultimately backfired and, thus, contributed to the de-legitimation of the political class among the street opposition.[13]

The straw to break the camel’s back, however, was the demotion of the popular wartime General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi. The Baghdad-born Sunni came to fame through his successful military campaigns against the Islamic State and enjoyed high popularity among both the Sunnis and Shias. His supporters claim Abdul Mahdi downgraded the General for speaking up against the growing influence of pro-Iran militias. Saadis’ criticism is a sore point, as the Iraqi government is struggling to extend its control over the pro-Iran militias, which are part of the umbrella organization ‘Popular Mobilization Forces’ (PMF).[14] Critics have accused these militias of stealing oil, controlling commercial crossings, preventing Sunni IDP’s from returning to their homes, and inciting sectarian violence. Also, they have purportedly recruited youths to fight in Syria by taking advantage of the poor socio-economic conditions.[15] Abdul Mahdi passed a decree in mid-2019 to integrate the PMF into the state-sanctioned security apparatus. However, the Iraqi government has been unable to implement the transformation effectively.

Activists have accused the two major political blocs ‘Islah,’ and more emphatically, ‘Binaa,’ of using their influence to serve Iran’s interests through Iraqi state institutions. Thus, the protest marches took a more anti-Iranian stance, resulting in the use of chants, such as “Iran out, out… Baghdad remains free.”[16] Anti-Iranian rhetoric peaked during the attacks on the Iranian consulate in Karbala on November 3, which left three dead and another three wounded. A similar attack occurred on November 27, when protestors set fire to the Iranian consulate in Najaf, resulting in the death of one person and injuring 35 as police fired live ammunition to prevent the arsonists from entering the building.[17.

3. A Snapshot of the Developments

3.1 Political Reactions

In response to the simmering discontent, the Iraqi government has steadily adopted authoritarian approaches and repressive tactics to quell the protests–including the use of live ammunition. Abdul Mahdi issued a warning, stating that his administration equates all sorts of vandalism with acts of terrorism, thus, allowing law enforcement agencies to use “maximum force” and harsh sentences for those arrested, including capital punishment.[18]

Despite the violent reaction from security forces, the number of protesters only increased due to the number of casualties. The constant use of tear gas, which attracted widespread media attention, killed and also seriously wounded dozens. Human Rights Watch referred to these incidents as a “gruesome pattern rather than isolated accidents.”[19] However, there were no counter-measures taken by security authorities, which call in to question the cooperation of various state security actors and the apparent lack of clarity held pertaining to their power and authority.

Unidentified elements of the hybrid PMF purportedly infiltrated the demonstrations to attack protesters and to sow seeds of discord.[20] Several reports have stated that PMF-affiliated snipers on rooftops opened fire on civilians without receiving any orders from the Iraqi security forces to do so.[21] Chairman of the PMF, Faleh al-Fayyad, indicated that his units were ready to effectuate government orders to avoid unrest and a “coup d’état.”[22] Additionally, members of the ‘Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC)–including the general of the ‘Quds Force,’ Qassem Soleimani, traveled to Iraq soon after the protests had kicked off to help advise the government on the crackdown. Soleimani also met with PMF affiliates in an attempt to promote support for Abdul Mahdi’s presidency.[23]

The influential Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani gave the government a two-week timeframe to commence an investigation as to who was responsible for the shoot-to-kill orders.[24] Leader of the biggest parliamentary coalition ‘Islah,’ Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, urged his coalition’s legislators to suspend their parliamentary membership and demanded a snap election. He symbolically joined the protest rally that co-occurred with the pilgrimage to Karbala during Arbaeen, where the marching crowd denounced corrupt leaders.[25]

Sadr’s bloc boycotted the government’s meetings to push for reforms on Saturday, October 26. Hundreds of his supporters walked in a protest march towards Tahrir Square, where the ‘Counter-Terrorist Service’ (CTS) responded with harsh violence.[26] Consequently, Sadr met with his Hadi al-Amiri–his main political rival–to rally against Abdul Mahdi’s government. In order to calm the situation, Abdul Mahdi promised a reshuffle of the current cabinet that aimed to appoint independent and qualified ministers, while reducing ministerial salaries.[27] Also, he allowed all governors to establish full or partial curfews on their governorates. After weeks of protests, Iraqi President Barham Salih announced at the beginning of November that Abdul-Mahdi had agreed to step down once the political blocs settled on a new Prime Minister. Also, he pledged to reform the electoral law.[28]

Furthermore, the government announced a series of reforms, such as land redistribution, military enlistment, and increased welfare stipends for impoverished families. In the meantime, the Iraqi military leadership admitted the use of excessive force against protesters, and President Barham Salih called for compensation for the people affected. Abdul Mahdi published a 13-point reform plan based on assistance and housing for the lower class, as well as training and educational opportunities for unemployed youth.[29]

Tensions escalated once again on November 28 and 29, when unknown armed forces killed 49 protestors in Nasiriyah, Najaf, and Baghdad, making it one of the bloodiest events since the start of the uprising.[30] Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged the cabinet to resign and to schedule snap elections. Only two hours later, Abdul Mahdi announced his resignation. Numerous parties backed his move and the initiative to move towards early elections. Among the supporting parties were Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, the Nasr Coalition, the Dawa Party, and Sairoon.[31]

In his Friday sermon, Ali al-Sistani, whom many Iraqi Shias revere as moral guidance, highlighted the sovereignty of the Iraqi people, stating they “chose what they see as best for themselves without any guardianship.”[32] The reference is very similar to an affront directed towards Ali Khamenei and the Iranian state system “Guardianship of the Jurist” (velayat-e faqih). Al-Sistani, known to be a more behind the scenes actor, has been less reluctant to express concern in Iran’s interference in Iraqi affairs since the uprising began. Whereas Khamenei dismissed the protests as a remote-controlled plot and stated that Iran “would not give up Iraq and would not allow its influence in Iraq to be reduced,” al-Sistani voiced support for the peoples’ demands.[33]

Since then, political parties have proposed a road map for Iraq’s post-Abdul Mahdi phase, such as the formation of an interim government and the inauguration of a consensual prime minister. Still, protesters in ten provinces made seven demands after Abdul Mahdi’s resignation, including ongoing protests until parties disappear and the quota system ends, constitutional amendment, a fair electoral law and a new electoral commission, early elections under UN supervision and accountability for all those implicated in killing protesters, including Abdul Mahdi.[34]

3.2 Affiliations

Underprivileged Shia youths, usually politically unaffiliated, form the backbone of the movement. Thus, protest rallies have mainly taken place in the capital of Baghdad and the Shia-dominated south.[35]

Sunni and Kurdish-majority regions were mostly unaffected by the demonstrations. Since the ‘Kurdistan Regional Government’ (KRG) semi-autonomously administers the Kurdish areas, the push for full independence has preoccupied the minds of most Kurds, particularly after the defeat of ISIS. Also, some areas, such as the eastern region around Sulaymaniyah, are more accepting of Iranian influence due to economic and political ties. Hence, there is little interest or benefit in the participation of the protests, which demonstrated strong anti-Iran rhetoric.[36]

Similarly, the Sunni areas have focused on the reconstruction of war-torn infrastructure. Besides, many Sunni-majority areas remain under military control, making it challenging to join central protest hotspots. Security authorities are concerned with ISIS sleeper cells and, thus, try to prevent potential ISIS affiliates from entering the Southern governates.[37] These concerns have contributed to the depoliticization of many Sunnis, as they intend to be as unobtrusive as possible. The potential allegation of being a former ISIS member or adherent of Ba’athism are accusations that they want to avoid. Many shun political activism for fear of being on the government’s radar, resulting in only minimal mobilization in Sunni-majority areas.[38]

The government’s excessive use of heavy-handed tactics constituted the vital spark that prompted people from all factions of society to join the protests. This has caused a shift in the social composition, reaching further to the middle classes. Among them are scholars, professionals, and members of political parties. Despite the involvement of people from all walks of life, however, the ethno-sectarian composition remains historically embedded.

The unifying consensus among the demonstrators, is the demand for a policy change, to replace the sectarian ’muhassasa’ with ’madaniyya’ – a civil state associated with sectarian impartiality, the rule of law and democratic representation. However, the term is not accurately defined and has several implications, over which there does not appear to be a clear consensus. These include, among other things, secularization, the role of religion, and gender equality. In the case of the latter, the upheaval has witnessed small but considerable participation of women, unprecedented in Iraq’s history.[39]

4. US-Iranian Military Escalation                                                                                                   

4.1 Showdown on Iraqi Soil

In parallel with the protests–which analysts already perceived as a power struggle between the US and Iran over influence in Iraq–a string of consecutive military escalations caught international attention. Kata’ib Hezbollah launched missile strikes against a US base near Kirkuk, killing one US contractor. The US retaliated and struck three of Kata’ib Hezbollah’s bases in Syria and Iraq, which killed at least 25 members of the Iranian-backed Iraqi militia.[40]

As a result, PMF affiliated protestors laid siege to the US Embassy in Baghdad. The fact that they did not overrun the embassy and caused what was described as a second Benghazi, despite being able to do so, indicates that neither Iran nor its Iraqi allies were interested in crossing the red line leading to all-out war. These red lines were transgressed, on January 3, when a US drone killed Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Deputy Commander of the PMF, marking the most dramatic turning point in the Middle East since the Invasion of Iraq by the USA and the UK in 2003.[41]

Confusion emerged about the motives that led the US leadership to authorize the operation at this particular point in time. Soleimani was considered a nuisance in regard to US interests throughout the region for years. The timing of the strike is noteworthy as the US had many opportunities in the past, under the presidencies of both Bush and Obama, to eliminate Soleimani, as he made his movements known by showcasing ostentatious displays of his travels and meetings on social media. However, all former administrations opted not to strike.

Likewise, the US has refrained from responding to numerous Iranian provocations over the past year, such as the targeting of oil tankers and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry. Although it is not one hundred percent clear, growing evidence points towards Tehran to have orchestrated these attacks.[42] Regardless, the clandestine change in US policy indicates that this step was taken weeks ago or internal politics and impeachment procedures outranked the importance of foreign policy in the Trump administration. While policymakers heavily criticized the US leadership for not notifying Congress before the strike,[43] the Pentagon justified the act as a precautionary measure to protect American lives, which were allegedly at risk due to imminent attacks planned by Soleimani.[44] However, reports have also emerged, stating that Soleimani was on a mission of de-escalation.[45]

There is no doubt that Soleimani was directly involved in the development of Iranian asymmetric warfare strategies and extraterritorial operations in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. In addition to his crucial involvement in the fight against ISIS, the high-ranking general developed strategic guidelines that helped the Assad regime to regain the upper hand in the Syrian civil war. The Iraqi government also profited from his expertise in anti-riot tactics to quell the October protests.

While Iran has a substantial list of targets in the region (such as US facilities in the Gulf, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon; US ships in Gulf waters, etc.), a calculated missile strike targeted two US bases in Iraq on January 8. Despite initial Iranian claims of 80 US soldiers killed, no casualties were reported.[46] The attack seems to have deliberately avoided any fatalities among US citizens. It allowed the Iranian leadership to save face without provoking further US counter-responses. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that the response is “proportional (…) self-defense under the UN Charter,”[47] thus, signaling Iran’s intentions of preventing further escalation.

Following the Iranian retaliation on Wednesday, January 8, Donald Trump announced in an internationally televised speech that he would toughen sanctions against Iran and asked NATIO to become more involved in what he described as the “Middle Eastern process.”[48] He stated there was no interest in further military actions. Equally significant, Iran accidentally shot down a Ukrainian civil airplane the same morning. This tragic incident will most likely tone down Iran’s threatening gestures. Not only did it showcase Iran’s military deficits, but it also brought Iran’s leadership under immense pressure as wide-spread protests erupted again throughout Iran.[49] As a result of which direct military confrontation seems unlikely.

The possibilities of covert and proxy attacks in the short and long-term future remain a substantial possibility. Hours after the strike, the PMF announced that they would have their response to the US strike. Simultaneously, it was reported by Iranian media that Hezbollah moved military equipment towards the Southern border in case of US retaliation, but for now, it appears that de-escalation is the immediate aim of both Iran and the US. In case of another further flare-up, the scenarios include a long-term proxy war or a continuous cycle of calculated retributions between the two without developing into a full-blown war.

4.2 Conclusion and Future Prospects

The unfolding of US-Iranian skirmishes leading up to Soleimani’s death had already overshadowed the news coverage of the October Uprising. It is essential to keep in mind that the uprising constitutes the most dangerous challenge to the current political system, which followed the overthrow of Saddam Hussain’s regime in 2003. By viewing Iraq solely through the lens of Iranian influence, the US has damaged the momentum of protesters whose months-long struggle was starting to bear fruit.[50]

The protestors’ objective to eradicate corruption and sectarianism from Iraq’s governmental body is metonymic with the rejection of the very system and the representatives that have actively contributed to it. The diversification of power and resources along ethno-sectarian lines has weakened state institutions and created loopholes for power brokers, such as politicians, religious clerics, tribesmen, and militias, to exert hegemonic power over these oligopolies. Depending on the issue and whether it seems profitable or beneficial to their cause, these opportunistic actors intermittently pair up with the state authority or compete against it.

Such grievances will continue to challenge the raison d’être of the established political class. Donald Trump’s speech from Wednesday, January 8, and the downing of the Ukrainian passenger airplane crash earlier the same day point towards a de-escalation of the situation–for the moment. Thus, the protest movement will sooner or later occupy the center stage of Iraqi politics once again.

Driven by the instinct of self-preservation, the US-Iranian duel on Iraqi soil constitutes a convenient counter-cause for the Iraqi political class to outflank the Tahrir Square movement by dominating the public discourse with a stereotypical binary of anti-Americanism and anti-Iranianism. Notably, Shia politicians have rallied against the US strike. As pointed out in the chapter above, most protestors come from the same denomination and could be taken in by such simplistic rhetoric.

However, the protest movement constructed new boundaries within the Shia community. Already torn between the theological poles of quietist Iraqi cleric Ali al-Sistani and Ali Khamenei’s revolutionary Shia-Islamist agenda, politicized Shiism in Iraq has been further deconstructed by revived socioeconomic class identity. Against the backdrop of decreasing effectiveness of sectarian rhetoric, politicians will most likely advocate nationalist tactics as the drone strike constituted a direct breach of national sovereignty. Furthermore, it will enable sect-centric elites to air themselves as patriots.

This development has already come to the fore: Muqtada al-Sadr, who sporadically signaled sympathy for the protest movement, has shifted away from his regular government-critical and pro-Tahrir Square jargon towards anti-American rabble-rousing and threatened to revive his ‘Mahdi Army’ against US presence.[51] This opportunistic attitude could be the result of his failure to monopolize the protest movement. Segments of the movement perceive the Sadrist movement and its electoral ally, the Iraqi Communist Party, to be a  part of the ruling caste, since they took part in the government formation process 2018, wearing off Sairoon’s street credibility. However, al-Sadr has been trying to maintain his influential position in any post-Tahrir scenario.

More worrisome than mere instrumentalization is the further intra-Iraqi violence between sect-centric militias and protestors. While there were some scattered, spur-of-the-moment celebrations over the news of the death of Soleimani and al-Muhandis, most protesters remained cautious. One of their demands is the restriction of weapons to Iraqi security forces and militias. In the light of a looming military confrontation, such demands will seriously challenge the patience of various armed groups. As sub-groups of the PMF are known to operate as Iranian proxies, the protest movement has been critical of these external links. Many Iraqis oppose Iranian intrusion as they fear rising Iran-US tensions could turn Iraq into another proxy battlefield.

The chaos that followed the US-Iranian showdown could now make way for parastatal actors to deal with the protest movement ad libitum. Given the government’s multi-perforated sway over the legitimate use of force, Shia militias–particularly the Iran-affiliated ones–have the potential to crush the movement by force. In Nasiriyah–a major hub of Iraq’s protest movement–militiamen of Kata’ib Hezbollah torched tents of activists and wounded five.[52] As the driving force behind the defeat of ISIS, these groups will almost certainly demand a role in future Iraq–whether that will be inside or outside the official security apparatus. Similarly, it is highly unlikely that Iran will let go of its regional proxies, especially at a time of popular uprisings that have challenged Iran’s power base at home and throughout the region.

Hence, the point of premature escalation is given at any time. If supporters feel their cause is forlorn, a radicalization on both ends is to be expected. Then again, various factions are likely to appropriate their slice of the cake, resulting in further destabilization and state disintegration. The more promising scenario is the emergence of new political parties from the street opposition and a long and strenuous march through state institutions. A peaceful transition is only possible in the long run and at the ballot box. The protests have established cross-sectarian harmonies, that could, long-acting, make for a new electoral system with a non-aligned electoral committee.

Supportive Research by Amer Saliba and Jimmy Matar
Final Editing by Hannah Beth Cooper

References

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[2] Rasheed, A., & Davison, J. (2019, December 6). Iraqi police fire on protesters in new unrest, death toll passes 100. Retrieved from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-protests/iraqi-police-fire-on-protesters-in-new-unrest-death-toll-passes-100-idUSKCN1WL06W

[3] Cordeman, A., & Baetjer, P. (2006). Iraqi Security Forces: A Strategy for Success. Westport: Praeger Security International.

[4] Human Rights Watch. (2019, December 16). Iraq: State Appears Complicit in Massacre of Protesters. Retrieved from Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/12/16/iraq-state-appears-complicit-massacre-protesters

[5] Agence France-Presse. (2019, December 16). No Consensus Yet on New Iraqi PM as Deadline Looms. Retrieved from Voice of America: https://www.voanews.com/middle-east/no-consensus-yet-new-iraqi-pm-deadline-looms

[6] Rasheed, A., & Davison, J. (2019, December 6).

[7] Dagher, M. (2019, October 16). Why Are Iraqi Shiites Leading the Protests against Their ‘Own’ Government? Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/16/why-are-iraqi-shiites-leading-protests-against-their-own-government/.

[8] Wheeler, D. (2019, October 9). In Iraq, Hunger for Jobs Collides With a Government That Can’t Provide Them. Retrieved from Al-Fanar Media: https://www.al-fanarmedia.org/2019/10/in-iraq-hunger-for-jobs-collides-with-a-government-that-cant-provide-them/

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[10] Turak, N. (2019, January 30). Iraq’s massive 2019 budget still fails to address reform needs, experts say. Retrieved from CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/30/iraqs-massive-2019-budget-still-fails-to-address-reform-needs.html

[11] Dodge, T. (2019). Iraq and Muhassasa Ta’ifia; The External Imposition of Sectarian Politics. Retrieved from Sectarianism, Proxies and De-sectarianisation: https://www.sepad.org.uk/report/iraq-and-muhasasa-ta-ifia-the-external-imposition-of-sectarian-politics

[12] Postel, D., & Hashemi, N. (2017). Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East. New York: Oxford University Press.

[13] Dodge, T. (2019, October 1). Corruption Continues to Destabilize Iraq. Retrieved from Chatham House: https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/corruption-continues-destabilize-iraq

[14] Rudolf, I. (2019, September 20). Can Abdul Mahdi finally reign in the Hashd? Retrieved from Zenith: https://magazine.zenith.me/en/politics/iraqi-militias-and-aramco-attack-saudi-arabia

[15] Human Rights Watch. (2016, August 30). Iraq: Militias Recruiting Children. Retrieved from Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/08/30/iraq-militias-recruiting-children

[16] Salman, A. (2019, October 25). @SalmanAymen. Retrieved from Twitter: https://twitter.com/SalmanAymen/status/1187716597777084416

[17] Agence France-Presse. (2019, December 19). Iraq unrest grows in two months of anti-regime protest. Retrieved from The Jordan Times: https://jordantimes.com/news/region/iraq-unrest-grows-two-months-anti-regime-protest

[18] Mamouri, A. (2019, November 25). Iraqi government responds to protests by digging in. Retrieved from Al-Monitor: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/11/iraq-iran-protests-violence.html#ixzz67FWbDPWC

[19] Human Rights Watch. (9. November 2019). Iraq: Teargas Cartridges Killing Protesters. Von Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/08/iraq-teargas-cartridges-killing-protesters abgerufen

[20] Ghafuri, L. (2019, November 16). Protesters being killed by ‘third party’, not Iraq’s security forces: defense minister. Retrieved from Rudaw: https://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/16112019

[21] “Exclusive: Iran-backed militias deployed snipers in Iraq protests – sources.” Reuters, October 17, 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-protests-iran-snipers-exclusive/exclusive-iran-backed-militias-deployed-snipers-in-iraq-protests-sources-idUSKBN1WW0B1

[22] The Baghdad Post. (2019, October 7). IMIS says was ready to confront protesters to prevent coup d’etat. Retrieved from The Baghdad Post: https://www.thebaghdadpost.com/en/Story/44187/IMIS-says-was-ready-to-confront-protesters-to-prevent-coup-d-etat

[23] Joffre, T. (2019, December 1). IRGC’s Qassem Soleimani visits Baghdad as Iraqi PM resigns – report. Retrieved from The Jerusalem Post: https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/IRGCs-Qassem-Soleimani-visits-Baghdad-as-Iraqi-PM-resigns-report-609546

[24] Asharq Al-Awsat. (2019, October 11). Sistani Gives Baghdad 2 Weeks to Release Findings of Probe into Death of Protesters. Retrieved from Asharq Al-Awsat: https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1941236/sistani-gives-baghdad-2-weeks-release-findings-probe-death-protesters

[25] Agence France-Presse. (2019, October 19). Iraqi pilgrims protest corruption during Arbaeen march. Retrieved from France24: https://www.france24.com/en/20191019-iraqi-pilgrims-protest-corruption-during-arbaeen-march

[26] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. (2019, October 27). Iraqi PM Sends Counter-Terror Force To Put Down Street Protests. Retrieved from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: https://www.rferl.org/a/iraq-mahdi-elite-antiterror-forces-break-up-protests-iran-militias/30238406.html

[27] Aboulenein, A. (2019, October 29). Iraqi protesters pack Baghdad square, anti-government movement gains momentum. Retrieved from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-protests/iraqi-protesters-pack-baghdad-square-anti-government-movement-gains-momentum-idUSKBN1X80KI

[28] Dwyer, C. (2019, October 31). Iraqi Prime Minister Set To Step Down Amid Swell Of Anti-Government Protest. Retrieved from NPR: https://www.npr.org/2019/10/31/775052613/iraqi-prime-minister-set-to-step-down-amid-swell-of-anti-government-protest

[29] Jalabi, R., & Davison, J. (2020, October 8). Protests resume in Iraq’s Sadr City as uprising enters second week. Retrieved from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-protests/protests-resume-in-iraqs-sadr-city-as-uprising-enters-second-week-idUSKBN1WN0ZR

[30] Davison, J., & Marjani, A. (2019, November 28). Iraqi forces kill 45 protesters after Iranian consulate torched. Retrieved from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-protests/iraqi-forces-kill-45-protesters-after-iranian-consulate-torched-idUSKBN1Y20WX

[31] Mamouri, A. (2019, November 29). As Iraq bloodshed spreads, Sistani calls for early elections. Retrieved from Al-Monitor: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/11/iraq-protests-sistani-abdul-mahdi.html#ixzz67JWyYPUu

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibrahim, A. (2019, November 29). ‘Bloodbath’: Dozens of protesters killed as army deploys south. Retrieved from Al Jazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/iraq-security-forces-kill-protesters-nasiriyah-army-deploys-191128084334582.html

[36] Abdul-Zahra, Q., & Krauss, J. (2019, October 30). Protests in Iraq and Lebanon pose a challenge to Iran. Retrieved from The Times of Irsael: https://www.timesofisrael.com/protests-in-iraq-and-lebanon-pose-a-challenge-to-iran/

[37] Abu Zeed, A. (2019, October 15). Sunnis support protests in Iraq, yet fear involvement. Retrieved from Al-Monitor: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/10/iraq-protests-sunni-mosul.html

[38] Bobseine, H. (2019, October 14). Iraqi youth protesters: Who they are, what they want, and what’s next. Retrieved from Middle East Institute: https://www.mei.edu/publications/iraqi-youth-protesters-who-they-are-what-they-want-and-whats-next

[39] Ali, Z. (2019, October 4). Protest movements in Iraq in the age of a ‘new civil society’. Retrieved from Open Democracy: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/north-africa-west-asia/protest-movements-in-iraq-in-the-age-of-a-new-civil-society/

[40] Crowley, M., Hassan, F., & Schmitt, E. (7. January 2020). U.S. Strike in Iraq Kills Qassim Suleimani, Commander of Iranian Forces. Von The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/02/world/middleeast/qassem-soleimani-iraq-iran-attack.html abgerufen

[41] Hirsch, M. (2020, January 2). U.S. Strike Kills One of Iran’s Most Powerful Military Leaders. Retrieved from Foreign Policy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/02/u-s-strike-kills-one-of-irans-most-powerful-military-leaders/

[42] Wintour, P. (2020, October 11). Iranian oil tanker damaged by explosions near Saudi port city. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/11/iranian-oil-tanker-on-fire-after-blast-near-saudi-port-city-report

[43] Committee on Foreign Affairs Press Releases. (2020, January 2). Engel Statement on Killing of Qasem Soleimani. Retrieved from Committee on Foreign Affairs: https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/2020/1/engel-statement-on-killing-of-qasem-soleimani

[44] Macias, A., & Breuninger, K. (2020, January 7). Slain Iranian general’s planned attack on Americans was ‘days’ away, Esper says. Retrieved from CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/07/slain-iranian-generals-planned-attack-on-americans-was-days-away-esper-claims.html

[45] Zilber, A. (2020, January 6). Iraqi prime minister says Qassem Soleimani was in Iraq to ‘discuss de-escalating tensions between Iran and Saudis’ when he was killed – and claims Trump had asked for help mediating talks after embassy attack. Retrieved from The Daily Mail: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7854971/Soleimani-Iraq-discuss-escalating-tensions-Saudis-killed-PM-says.html

[46] Staff, T. (2020, January 12). Iran claims 80 American troops killed in missile barrage; US says no casualties. Retrieved from The Times of Israel: Iran claims 80 American troops killed in missile barrage; US says no casualties

[47] Ali, Z. (2019, October 4). Protest movements in Iraq in the age of a ‘new civil society’. Retrieved from Open Democracy: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/north-africa-west-asia/protest-movements-in-iraq-in-the-age-of-a-new-civil-society/

[48] Mehta, A., & Joe, G. (2020, January 9). Trump wants NATO to be more involved in the Middle East. That may take some convincing. Retrieved from Defense News: https://www.defensenews.com/smr/nato-2020-defined/2020/01/08/trump-wants-nato-to-be-more-involved-in-the-middle-east-that-may-take-some-convincing/

[49] CBS News. (2020, January 12). Iran says it “unintentionally” shot down Ukrainian airplane. Retrieved from CBS News: https://www.cbsnews.com/live-updates/iran-plane-military-unintentionally-shot-down-jetliner-2020-01-11/

[50] McCaffray van den Toorn, C., & Alkadiri, R. (2020, January 7). US-Iran tensions shift Iraq from brink of reform to brink of war. Retrieved from Al-Monitor: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/01/us-iran-tensions-iraq-soleimani-brink-war-reform.html

[51] Roggio, B., & Weiss, C. (2020, January 9). Muqtada al Sadr reactivates Mahdi Army, Promised Day Brigade. Retrieved from FDD’s Long War Journal: https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2020/01/muqtada-al-sadr-reactivates-mahdi-army-promised-day-brigade.php

[52] The Jerusalem Post. (2020, January 7). Iraqi Hezbollah shoots protesters in Nasiriyah, burns protest tents. Retrieved from The Jerusalem Post: https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Iraqi-Hezbollah-shoots-protesters-in-Nasiriyah-burns-protest-tents-613475

Konstantin Rintelmann
Konstantin Rintelmann
Konstantin Rintelmann is graduate from the University of Münster, Germany, with a double BA degree in Islamic-Arab Culture and Islamic Theology. He majored in Shiism and Iranian history and later obtained an MA degree in Middle East Politics and Security Studies with distinction from the University of Bradford, UK. He was awarded the prize ‘Best Dissertation’ for his critique “Diversity, Discord, and Discourse: A Dissection of the ‘Shīʻite Crescent’ and the Sectarian Narrative” by the Division of Peace Studies and International Development. He has traveled the Middle East extensively over the past years and hopes to continue research on identity, sectarianism, nationalism, and Iraq-Iran relations.