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KT Edit: Iraqi society unites against its politicians

Filed on December 2, 2019 | Last updated on December 2, 2019 at 08.15 pm

Another unpopular government in the Middle East has resigned under public pressure. Iraq Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi had no choice when an influential cleric threw in his lot with the protesters who had thronged the city streets across the country. The unrest, which began in October, was peaceful initially, but security forces used excessive force killing 400 people. The slaughter of innocents drew worldwide condemnation, including from Pope Francis, who has expressed an interest in visiting Iraq. The country has struggled to shake off the effects of the American invasion and the ouster of long-time dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003. Sectarian politics fuelled by Iran has only worsened the situation in the country whose wealth has been gobbled up by power-hungry politicians. Jobs are drying up, government services are dismal, and corruption has tainted every state institution. The recent protests were for a more responsive government. PM Mahdi had failed on all fronts when it came to governance. That's when the people decided to take matters into their own hands to demand their rights.

The crackdown on peaceful protesters from different strata of society and sects was the final straw. The people had reconciled their differences while the politicians were busy politicking. Mahdi did not factor in the extent of the resentment and anger at the government that did not have its ear to the ground.

People want the basics which the government has been unable to provide. Iraq has oil wealth but its squabbling politicians are busy frittering away its gains.

Recent protests in Sudan, Algeria and Lebanon have inspired Iraqis who united for their country. They had decided to break free from sectarian politics thrust upon them by the ruling classes. Mahdi may have exited the stage but there are no easy solutions for the country. Years of war have devastated lives and the economy. Iran continues to wield influence and there remains the threat of terror groups who are only too eager to sow discord in society and turn Iraqi against Iraqi. The military was disbanded by the US when it occupied the country and this is a major concern. Rebuilding an army that serves Iraq's interests, protects its borders against outside aggression, and maintains internal security, is a priority. A fragile polity and military make Iraq vulnerable. The silver lining is that society has shown a semblance of unity during these protests. The people must be lauded for their commitment towards a larger cause. They have made politicians bow to their will. To them goes the credit. A new government will have to listen to ordinary Iraqis, deliver on jobs, services, and education. The challenges for Iraqis are many. Together, they can.


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