The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI)
8 January 2020
The overwhelmingly peaceful and nonviolent youth-led protests taking place across Iraq since 1 October—in Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala, Wasit, Diwaniyah, Babil, Omara, Samawa, Nasiriyah and Basrah—have over the past week had to react to a series of violent events, caused by forces outside Iraq.
- After a U.S. contractor was killed and four U.S. troops were wounded when the Kata’ib Hezbollah—an Iraqi militia affiliated with Iran—fired rockets at an Iraqi military base, on December 27, the Trump administration launched airstrikes on a military base belonging to Kata’ib Hezbollah, close to the Iraqi-Syrian border, and killed 25 members of the group.
- Pro-Iranian demonstrators then stormed the U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad. Chanting “Death to America,” they occupied the embassy for two days and set fire to several buildings before ending their siege.
- In retaliation, U.S. President Trump ordered a drone strike on a two-car convoy near the Baghdad airport, killing Qasem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top military figures and leader of its special operations forces abroad, and Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, an Iraqi leader of the popular mobilization that fought against Daesh.
- Iran now vows revenge.
- Iraq’s politicians have roundly condemned the strike, calling it a violation of its sovereignty and the agreement allowing U.S. forces in the country in order to combat Daesh.
- The Iraqi parliament issued a decision that requires the Iraqi government to oversee the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq. In response the Trump administration has threatened to impose a harsh economic sanctions if the Iraqi government insists on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq
But the protesters remain committed to their goals: to change fundamentally the Iraqi political system; to end financial and administrative corruption; to have a government that represents and respects Iraqi’s rich identity—not foreign interests; and to hold accountable all those who have killed peaceful protesters and those who have had a hand in suppressing their voices.
One of the greatest impacts of the protests has been the solidarity it has forged among Iraqis from different governorates and of different religious and ethnic backgrounds.
The recent escalation of tensions between the Trump administration and Iran is putting Iraq and Iraqis at immense risk. Any military action will lead to regional war and Iraq would be the main battlefield. The ICSSI calls for immediate international action to protect Iraqis from any new escalation of military action. The international community should move fast to press for mediation and diplomacy to find a peaceful solution. We think that the United Nations and the European Union should call for urgent peace negotiations between Iran and the other regional powers. The time to stop escalation is now. Stop any new wars. Stop any further militarization of the region.