Iraq PM: Protests Must End During Fallujah Invasion

Insists Military Too Busy With Fallujah to Cope With Demonstrations

by Jason Ditz, May 26, 2016

Every Friday in recent months has seen major public protests in Baghdad, usually in the tens of thousands and sometimes in the hundreds of thousands. After last week’s violent crackdowns left four protesters dead and over 100 wounded, Prime Minister Hayder Abadi is now warning the protesters to stay away.

Abadi insisted that ending the protests for the duration of the invasion of the city of Fallujah, launched earlier this week, is necessary because the military is “preoccupied” with the offensive, saying that the public could best support the offensive by not demonstrating against the government.

The protests, largely organized by Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, seek major reforms of the government, including the installation of a cabinet of technocrats. Though Abadi did nominate such a cabinet, parliament never voted on it, and has been in such turmoil since the nomination it appears unlikely a vote will ever come.

The protesters have also been increasingly angry at the lack of security around Baghdad, saying the military buildup in the capital seems entirely focused on keeping protesters away from the Green Zone, even as major bombings are carried out against residential areas with virtual impunity.

It is unlikely, then, that the offensive in Fallujah is going to convince many demonstrators not to take to the streets of central Baghdad to seek redress, There is also no indication that the military diverted any forces away from Baghdad, so the crackdown will likely happen on schedule as well.

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