Over the past week, Iraq’s central and southern provinces have been swept by protests. The protests are coming while the analysts maintained that after obliteration of the terrorist group across the country, the nation will be back on the track of improvement, and the government is expected to take steps to provide the Iraqis with social and financial services to upgrade their deteriorated welfare levels.
But the hot summer days proved problematic, exposing the Iraqi citizens to frequent power and water shortages, hence adding fuel to a fire already sparked by tough economic conditions. These shortages triggered rallies in Basra province that were spread to other provinces in the center of the country.
The experts say that the legitimacy of the protests that call on the government to provide basic services for a normal life cannot be questioned. The fact is that the Iraqi citizens went under a life of daily suffering during the rule of the toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, and when he was ousted in 2003 as a result of the US invasion, the Iraqis hardly felt much difference and solution of their snags in many fields, mainly economically and politically. A set of challenges after Saddam’s fall cut the government’s ability to serve the citizens, but many argue that under any conditions the right of the people to ask for the government to enhance its service provision is legitimate and tenable.
What started as peaceful and legal rallies after a couple of days digressed from its main course and the demonstration circles saw some sides taking violent actions. Some public utilities in Basra, for example, were set alight by some violent protestors. In Babil, a province in central Iraq, demonstrators attacked two offices one belonging to the ruling Dawa Party and the other to Fadillah Party in Al-Qassim neighborhood in the south of the province. Responding to the violence, the government deployed anti-riot forces to the hot spots. The National Security Council, a high decision-making body, announced that the government will take appropriate actions against the rioters.
The explosion of the situation into riots raised some questions. Who is taking advantage of the violence? And what ways does the government has ahead to contain the predicament?
Three sides are certainly involved in pressing the rallies out of the normal path: the remains of the dissolved Baathist Party, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the US. Since the first sparks of the demonstrations, the Baathist Party’s remains tried to direct them against Iran and damage the public utilities. Saddam’s daughter Raghad Hussein in a tweet widely circulated by the anti-Iranian media called on the protestors to attack the offices of the parties with close ties to Tehran. This very well signals that the pro-Baathists have infiltrated the peaceful protests and intend to lead them to a revolt against the central government. They have financial and media backup from foreign sides.
The massively-viewed broadcasters like Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya news channel and UAE’s Sky News started a biased coverage of the rallies, trying to paint them as happening majorly against the Iranian presence in Iraq. To this purpose, they enthusiastically accentuated anti-Iranian slogans by hired mercenaries which are lost in a huge wave of pro-services demonstrations. In another tactic, they tried to exhibit Saudi Arabia as the friend of the protesters and the Iraqi state.
To this end, they highlighted an offer from Riyadh to help Baghdad with its electricity crisis. The Saudis seek to take advantage of the demonstrations for two purposes: Shoring up influence in Iraq and the West Asia region as a whole and materializing their dream of cracking the strategic Tehran-Baghdad alliance. The UAE is also a player in Iraq with objectives similar to Saudi Arabia, mainly directed against the entrenched Iranian influence in Iraq.
The US is another actor in Iraq which closely follows what is happening in the Arab country. The Americans are profoundly discontented with the recent victory of the anti-American parties following the May 12 parliamentary election. To put it straight, the Americans found themselves big losers in a fierce fight for a foothold in Iraq. So, any trouble for the government plays into their hands. They appear to be yearning for a massive stagnation in Iraq’s politics, something helps them with injecting their supporters into the body of the government.
What can Iraq do?
In a time when the country is coming under foreign and domestic conspiracies, the Iraqi patriotic politicians must mobilize their strength to beat the predicament ahead. The hardships are unavoidable. For example, the political stalemate that has followed the announcement of the vote results majorly cut the government’s ability to successfully deal with the protests.
As long as the political factions fail to strike a comprehensive deal that reflects itself in the inclusive government formation, the state can hardly get through the tough conditions it is countering. So far, the victorious parties have declined to solve their problems and so build the ground for a new cabinet to form. This is feeding a rising political limbo which delays addressing the rightful demands of the citizens.
The final solution, thus, lies in forming an encompassing government. A new cabinet with a strong will and clear program to provide services can prove curative. The politicians and the parties also have a duty for support. They are expected to put aside personal and party interests and direct their focus on public and national interests.