As Protests Grow, Iraq PM Gives ‘Free Rein’ to Security Forces to Crack Down

Official: 'He's going to completely destroy the protesters'

Increasing arrests, the shutdown of the Internet in parts of the country, and the use of live ammunition by security forces has so far accomplished little, and Iraq’s protests continue to grow. But if violence isn’t crushing the protests, that doesn’t mean officials are giving up on the idea.

If anything, Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi seems to be committing even more heavily to the idea of crushing the protests, since his alternative seems to be resigning in disgrace. Officials are predicting a major increase in the use of force in the days to come.

One official said that Mahdi was to give “free reign” to security forces handling the protests. He further predicted that Baghdad would see the worst of it and “he’s going to completely destroy the protesters.”

At least that’s the plan. Crushing the protesters hasn’t worked great so far, and even hints of escalatory violence seem to only increase the presence of protesters, and fuel more demands from other officials, including religious leaders, to stop using force at all.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani was very direct about this earlier on in the protests, calling on security forces to show restraint and insisting the government hold those using violence against protesters accountable. Though Sistani rarely takes a direct role in Iraqi politics, an increase in violence is almost certain to fuel a new Friday sermon deeply critical of policies.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.