Protests in Iraq, Trouble In Syria

Grind for October 10th
“Chance is a word void of sense; nothing can exist without a cause.”
– Voltaire


The Headline

Iraq: Nearly 100 dead in anti-government protests

The Grind

Security officials in Iraq shot and killed 19 civilians in Baghdad this Saturday during the fifth consecutive day of anti-government protests.

Nearly 100 people have been killed and more than 6,000 injured since Tuesday, when protestors initiated rallies to demand jobs, better access to water and electricity, and an end to government corruption.

Demonstrations are led mainly by young men, who face an unemployment rate of nearly 25%.

Authorities responded to the protests by blocking the Internet Wednesday and imposing a curfew Thursday. Security forces, backed by the army, have used tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets, and live rounds to disperse the protestors.

Friday was the deadliest day so far, with 22 people killed. Security forces reported 8 of their members killed and over 1,000 wounded since Tuesday.

The Details

The past seven days represent the most violence Iraq has seen since the defeat of ISIS In 2017, though the county has struggled with the effects of multiple unfinished wars since the defeat of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

“It has been 16 years of corruption and injustice,” says Abbas Najm, an unemployed engineer who participated in Saturday’s protest. “We are not afraid of bullets or the death of martyrs. We will keep going and we won’t back down.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi described protestors’ demands as “legitimate,” but defended police action as a “bitter medicine” necessary to quell the violence. His government announced a series of reforms this week, but his vague promises to address poverty and unemployment are unlikely to satisfy protestors.

“There seems to be a lot of anger towards the government, but it’s also coming not just from the protests but from the parliament itself,” explains Al Jazeera reporter Imran Khan, who spoke with protestors in Iraq. “But this government is only a year old and these problems are a lot older than that.”

Legislators were unable to hold an emergency session of parliament scheduled for Saturday when a number of key lawmakers failed to appear.

Populist nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has urged lawmakers to suspend their parliamentary membership and boycott sessions. On Friday, he called for snap elections and for Abdul-Mahdi’s resignation.

Several neighboring countries have urged residents not to travel to Iraq.


The Headline

Trump pulls troops from Syria ahead of Turkish invasion, leaving Kurds vulnerable

The Grind

Hundreds of US troops will return home as Turkey prepares to invade northern Syria, announced President Trump on Sunday.

Critics worry the pullout will lead to the slaughter of the Kurds, who have played a major role in the fight against ISIS.

“Allowing Turkey to move into northern Syria is one of the most destabilizing moves we can do in the Middle East,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), an Iraq war veteran. “The Kurds will never trust America again.”

“Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief,” wrote Brett McGurk, a former Administration official who resigned last year after the departure of then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. “He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.”

Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) described the move as “a betrayal.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) warned the pullout could lead to the return of ISIS and force the Kurds to ally with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Details

In Trump’s opinion, it’s time for Syria to take care of its own problems.

“The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so,” tweeted Trump on Monday. “They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for…almost three years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.”

In response to criticism, Trump threatened to “destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if the nation does anything he considers “off limits.”

A spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the group is committed to preserving stability in the region, but will “not hesitate to turn any unprovoked attack by Turkey into an all-out war on the entire border to defend ourselves and our people.”

In a statement released this weekend, the White House confirmed Turkey would be responsible for all ISIS captives. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who spoke with Trump on the phone last week, plans to meet Trump in person later this month.

Did you know… Until the 1960s, men with long hair were not allowed to enter Disneyland.