Author Topic: Iraq  (Read 347739 times)


Crafty_Dog

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GPF: US troops still wanted
« Reply #1001 on: April 03, 2019, 09:40:19 AM »
The U.S. welcome in Iraq. Iraq’s parliamentary speaker said in an interview that U.S. forces are still needed in Iraq to combat the Islamic State’s remaining presence. It seems Iraq is being pulled in two directions: It still wants ties with the United States, and some 5,000 U.S. troops remain stationed there. But it also has a strong Iranian presence as Iran-backed politicians are winning seats in the government, Iranian trade (including electricity) is increasingly important to the Iraqi economy, and tens of thousands of Iran-backed militants operate in Iraq. The speaker’s comments show that Iraq still believes it needs U.S. support despite the growing Iranian influence in the country.


Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Iraq: Protests threaten to upend the government
« Reply #1004 on: October 04, 2019, 08:37:12 PM »
Iraq: Metastasizing Protests Threaten to Upend the Government
4 MINS READOct 4, 2019 | 21:10 GMT
The Big Picture

Despite possessing some of the world's most sizable oil reserves, Iraq has struggled to stabilize its security or provide its citizens with sufficient access to goods, services and job opportunities. An ongoing swell of protest demonstrates the extent of Iraqis' exasperation with ongoing government inefficiency and how ill-equipped Iraq is to answer protesters' grievances in the near term.

What Happened

If protests in Iraq, fueled over the past week by long-standing grievances over corruption and economic need, continue to increase in intensity and scope, they could bring down the government. Substantial unrest in major Iraqi cities over the past three days has occurred largely in Shiite areas in the central and southern parts of the country. Although they were triggered by a handful of disparate political and economic issues, the demonstrations have since coalesced into a broad movement and taken a violent turn. Clashes between protesters, who have chanted anti-government and anti-Iran slogans, and security forces on Oct. 4 have left more than 40 people dead and hundreds more injured.

The resignation of the Abdul-Mahdi government could come sooner than later.

In an address delivered early Oct. 4, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi told Iraqis there were "no magic solutions" to solving their grievances and pleaded for more time to solve the country's endemic issues of corruption and unemployment. In an effort to assuage public anger, the prime minister has announced a new stipend program for poor families and the firing of 1,000 government employees accused of corruption, among other measures. But those promises have done little to calm the situation — something that isn't surprising given that Iraq's underlying problems endure despite similar assurances during previous bouts of unrest.

Elsewhere on Oct. 4, the influential Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani condemned the security response to the protests and urged the prime minister to establish an anti-corruption committee. Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr also issued a call for the government to resign, saying his Sairoon bloc in parliament would stop participating in legislative activities until the government introduces real reform, echoing his long-standing call for anti-corruption measures.

Why It Matters

Unrest driven by economic and political concerns isn’t new in Iraq. But the current outburst features several unique facets that indicate the risk they pose to the continuity of the current government. They differ from previous years' economically motivated demonstrations, primarily in terms of scale and scope. In addition, these protests do not appear to have a centralized leader, making them harder to control, whether by the Iraqi government or foreign actors. Even though there are signs that pro-protest social media hashtags may be originating from Saudi Arabia, given the diversity of Iraq's social and political spectrums, it's unlikely that any single external actor will be able to take advantage of the current unrest.

The protests come at a time of particular weakness in the Iraqi government. There is a wide divergence among its factions, especially the Shiite elite, over how to respond, especially since none of the near-term solutions under consideration will solve the long-term, endemic issues that have been festering for years.

What To Watch

    The resignation of the Abdul-Mahdi government could come sooner than later. Watch for a surge of unrest as the first anniversary of his Oct. 25 assumption of office approaches.

    The headquarters of U.S. and other foreign companies, especially in the oil and gas sector, could become targets, especially if pro-Iran factions in the country's political and security forces want to take advantage of the unrest. While this has not occurred during the current round of protests, foreign businesses have been attacked during previous episodes of unrest.

    A meeting on Oct. 5 in parliament with representatives of the protesters will provide an important indicator of the direction of the unrest. Watch for any tangible promises as part of an effort to placate their demands, including the resignation of specific government officials and offers of economic concessions.

    The mostly Shiite Popular Mobilization Units could play a key role in the eventual outcome. Given their grassroots origins, it’s unlikely that they'll be willing to put down protests. But their connections to Iran and their formal inclusion in the Iraqi security apparatus make it an open question as to how they will react moving forward.

    The Islamic State and other jihadist groups could take advantage of the current unrest, especially if Iraqi security forces are focused on dispelling serious unrest.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Iraq-- pressures building , , ,
« Reply #1005 on: October 11, 2019, 11:15:03 AM »
Why Baghdad's Attempts to Mollify Protests Are Falling on Deaf Ears
6 MINS READOct 11, 2019 | 14:15 GMT
This photo show burning tires in a Baghdad street during protests on Oct. 5.
(AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images)

Burning tires block roads in Baghdad during protests on Oct. 5, 2019. Issues including corruption, poor public services and unemployment have fomented public anger at the Iraqi government. Its options for responding will come at a cost.
Highlights

    Popular anger at lingering political and economic grievances is bound to keep resurfacing in Iraq so long as the economy continues to suffer from deep structural problems.
    Citizens, mistrustful after years of unfulfilled promises of more jobs and better services, are pushing their leaders to root out the corruption at the heart of Iraq's economic stagnation.
    Contrary to popular perceptions about Iraq, the unrest isn’t sectarian in nature, but focused instead on poor governance, corruption and a general lack of economic opportunity.

Deadly anti-government protests in Iraq have shed fresh light on the fragility of Iraq's post-2003 government and economy. Like episodes of significant unrest in 2011, 2015, 2016 and 2018, these protests include calls for improvements in social services, an increase in economic opportunities and an end to government corruption. But in terms of scale and scope, this spate of protests is unprecedented, perhaps portending the beginning of a moment of transition for Iraq’s government — not only for Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi's current administration, but also the broader system of governance as a whole.
The Big Picture

A deep and wide mistrust of government has made keeping the peace in Iraq more difficult. As Iraqis demand more tangible and complete solutions to their political and economic grievances, the state is faced with two broad choices over how to manage cyclical unrest — and both will mean disruptions for businesses in Iraq.
See Broken Contracts in the Middle East

In the long run, the promises of increased subsidies and jobs that the Iraqi government has used to calm previous economically fueled grievances are unsustainable. To preserve the current system in the face of repeatedly resurfacing political and economic gripes, the political class has two stark choices. It must either permit massive structural changes that will transform the economy into a stronger, more diverse and sustainable system, or it must stage the harshest crackdown since the U.S. intervention in 2003 to preserve the system as it is. Both options, naturally, will lead to profound business disruptions in the near term.
The Cycle of Economic Weakness Endures

One issue repeatedly drawing Iraqis onto the street is the country's structural economic weaknesses. Iraq's economy leans heavily on oil and natural gas extraction (energy exports constitute 99 percent of Iraqi exports and provide 84 percent of government revenue). But to keep producing at capacity, the energy sector sorely needs reform. Half of the government's budget goes to state pensions and public sector wages, plus handouts and subsidies that maintain social support. This has stifled diversification in the Iraqi economy, leading to an anemic private sector and a population overly dependent on public sector jobs that counts on the government to provide cheap and often unreliable services. A few reforms have taken place, but not enough to solve these structural problems. Donations from countries concerned about Iraqi stability, plus help from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have helped paper over the fundamental issues but failed to bring about the needed changes.
This map shows the total number of protests in Iraq's provinces in 2018 and 2019.

The government's familiar tactic of offering piecemeal solutions ultimately worsens the problems at the heart of Iraq's structural economic inefficiency. Overspending on public wages and subsidies that the government deems necessary to ensure stability has inflated public debt and created a massive budget deficit. In part to appease demands for jobs, public sector employment tripled from 900,000 in 2004 to roughly 3 million today; the subsequent wage inflation took jobs spending from 7 percent of the overall budget in 2004 to more than 40 percent today. Even with public-sector hiring freezes, such as one implemented in 2016, that's an unsustainable growth rate that could lead to breakdowns in government spending. Nevertheless, the government is relying on those familiar promises to quell the current unrest, including offers to add even more public sector jobs, plus hand out cash transfers and housing support that would deepen the hole it has found itself in.

The familiar government promises do not satisfy Iraqis like they once did. With previous pledges to create jobs and improve services going unfulfilled, this round of promises, unsurprisingly, hasn't convinced all protesting Iraqis to get off the streets. This also means that its familiar pattern won't work in the future. In fact, broken promises of reform have become such a familiar refrain that they have provided a platform that nationalist leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr have used to win popular support.
Broken Trust Transcends Sectarian Lines

Also feeding the protests is Iraqis' perception of a broken political system that doesn't answer their demands for representation and solutions. Iraqis have gone to the polls for at least eight local and national elections since Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003. But none of the leaders they have chosen have managed to turn the broken economy around or satisfy their needs. In fact, poverty levels and security woes have increased during that time. Mistrust in parts of the government system isn't new; previous instances of unrest also stemmed from Iraqis' demands for an end to corruption and the introduction of fresh faces into the government. What's new this time is the breadth of the frustration, which transcends Iraq's traditional sectarian politics. Public anger is not directed at any single sect, party or external patron. For example, the influence of powerful cleric Ali al-Sistani, whose voice once commanded considerable respect among all Iraqis, is reportedly weakening among a younger generation that has heard the same unfulfilled promises, year after year, from traditional sources of authority. This points to the likelihood that demands will emerge from Iraq's citizens that will become harder for the government to solve.

Iraqis are pushing their government to tackle tough political issues, like solving pervasive corruption, instead of just offering the same old solutions.

Although the protests transcend sectarian lines, their predominant participants — and many of the targets of their ire in government — are Shiite Muslims. This reflects the fact that Shiites constitute the largest share of the Iraqi population, a reality reflected in the structure of the post-2003 government system. One factor influencing the current protest movement is the deepening influence of Iran, a Shiite power, in Iraq. Anti-Iranian slogans that have become part of the ongoing protests point to a popular rejection of the growth of Iranian sway. This stems not so much from a specific rejection of Iranian influence as much as a desire to preserve Iraqi sovereignty, ultimately translating into a rejection of how the Iraqi government conducts its affairs and foreign policy.
The Risks to Iraqi Stability

Iraqis are pushing their government to tackle tough political issues, like solving pervasive corruption, instead of just offering the same old solutions. But a sincere and effective effort to diminish corruption in Iraq would require the state to engage in massive structural reform while unraveling some of the patronage networks that have formed within the political class around the energy sector. Not surprisingly, there is little enthusiasm among the political class to take this challenging and controversial route, which would create widespread disruptions and necessitate a reorganization of the energy sector over the long term. Nevertheless, the government has taken small steps in that direction. On Oct. 8, the Iraqi government froze the activities of provincial councils, followed by a government reshuffle announced two days later. The question in the near term remains whether that will be enough to assuage protests; it certainly won’t be enough to overhaul the entire system.