IRAQ: PROTESTS AND THREATS


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Now in its fourth month, the countrywide demonstrations in which several hundred have been killed and thousands wounded continued this weekend, as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens took to the streets.
Lacking jobs and basic living standards, and calling for new elections and an end government corruption, the demonstrators were beaten and killed by Iraqi security forces.
The government’s aggressive tactics to end the street protests came shortly after a popular cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, announced to his millions of followers that he was no longer supporting the demonstrators because of violent actions taken by many of them.
After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, as the leader of the Sadrist Movement, a militia group that opposed America’s occupation, al-Sadr became a heroic figure to millions of poor Shiites living in Iraq.
Sadr’s supporters had been providing medical care and shelter, and, in some cases, physically shielding the protesters from police attacks.
The following day, however, the influential cleric, who vehemently opposes the U.S. occupation, said he supported demonstrations against the U.S. embassies in Baghdad and other cities, referring to American troops as “those who have offended the symbol of the nation.”
With 70 percent of Iraqis identifying themselves as Shia Muslims, many protestors are also opposed to the continuing Iranian influence over the Iraqi state government.
Despite the withdrawal of Sadr’s supporters from anti-government demonstrations, thousands convened in the center of Baghdad on Saturday, setting up new tents and vowing not to leave.
TREND FORECAST: The protests and demonstrations will continue to accelerate throughout Iraq and attacks against U.S. troops and personnel will intensify. Over the weekend, rockets were fired at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. While no one was hurt and there was no significant damage, future attacks on the embassy will be seen by Washington as a “Benghazi moment,” inciting escalating retaliation by U.S. forces.  
 Also, as Brent Crude has now fallen below $60 per barrel, economic conditions will continue to deteriorate, thus increasing protestors’ demand for more government services and jobs.
 PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This summer will mark the 100-year anniversary of the Great Iraqi Revolution of 1920, which saw Sunni and Shiite factions join forces to fight British forces occupying the county to control and exploit its rich oil reserves.
 British forces brutally crushed the rebellion with mass bombings and heavy use of poison gas. At the time, Winston Churchill, then the British minister of war, proclaimed, “I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes [to] spread a lively terror.”
 The military leader of the Iraqi rebellion was the great grandson of Muqtada al-Sadr, the popular cleric now leading the anti-American occupation in Iraq.

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