Over the past four days, the street protests that began in October, but were halted following America’s assassination of General Soleimani at the Baghdad airport on 3 January, have continued.
Adding to the over 500 killed and the thousands wounded by Iraqi security forces, another five demonstrators were reported killed and scores more wounded.
Thousands of demonstrators continue to block major roads, and they show no signs of weakening their demands for reform.
With the nation bombed into rubble by the United States following its illegal invasion in 2003, the desperate citizens have called for a total overhaul of the political system, which they accuse of rampant corruption and failing to provide basic living services.
Despite being the third largest oil exporter in the world, the vast majority of the revenues (trillions of dollars over the past decade) have gone to foreign corporations and Iraqi hierarchy, as over seven million Iraqi citizens live below the poverty line and over 50 percent suffer from lack of food.
Hundreds of demonstrators are continuing a three month-long sit-in in the center of Baghdad.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the UN Special Representative for Iraq, yesterday called on the Iraqi government to initiate meaningful reforms.
As in Lebanon (see article in this issue), the political leaders of Iraq either cannot or are not interested in finding a new way forward to provide basic services, jobs, and equality to its citizens. The Iraqi government has experienced a total vacuum of leadership since Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced his resignation. Mahdi is still acting as interim leader.
U.S. Not Leaving
Following the U.S. assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, despite a vote on 6 January by the Iraqi parliament calling for all U.S. troops to leave the country, Abdul-Mahdi backed off the resolution, stating the decision should be left to the next elected Iraqi prime minister.
The Iraqi parliament currently has a Shia majority, which is favorable to Iran. Abdul-Mahdi resigned as prime minister last year and has been presiding over an interim government since.
President Trump threatened Iraq with severe sanctions if its government follows through with the non-binding resolution requiring U.S. troops to leave Iraq.
Among the sanctions would be cuts to the U.S. military aid package to Iraq and the denial of access to its financial deposits with the New York Federal Reserve. Iraq’s loss of access to these accounts would create a cash crunch in their financial system because revenue from oil sales are deposited in Fed accounts and are an important part of managing the country’s finances.

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