BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi will not resign in response to the demands of demonstrators and his new package of solutions will not ease the pressure on him to abandon the corrupt political forces that support him, politicians and officials told Arab News on Sunday. Angry demonstrations in Baghdad and seven southern Shiite-majority provinces have rocked Iraq for six days in protest against corruption, high unemployment and lack of basic daily services.
At least 104 people, including security personnel, have been killed and more than 6,000 wounded in recent days as Iraqi forces used live ammunition and tear gas to repel demonstrators who clashed with security forces as they tried to reach government and party headquarters in Baghdad and the provinces.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry said on Sunday that 52 government vehicles and about 60 government and party properties had been burned so far. The demonstrators demanded the dismissal of Abdul Mahdi’s government, forming a caretaker government, dissolving the Parliament and preparations for early national parliamentary elections under the supervision of the UN.
Abdul Mahdi responded by “turning a blind eye” to the use of “excessive force” against the demonstrators and used Iranian-backed armed factions to regain control of security in Baghdad and the provinces, according to witnesses.
“Two of my relatives who took part in the demonstrations were killed in the past few days in Baghdad by a sniper. Both of them were teenagers,” an anonymous military official told Arab News. “The first was hit in his neck and the other one was hit in his head.
“I know that some of the demonstrators misbehaved and rushed too much by clashing with security forces and burning some government buildings, but what I cannot justify is how a government can kill a teenager with all this coldness?”
The armed factions used by Abdul Mahdi to regain control raided the offices of a number of satellite TV channels covering the demonstrations in Baghdad, including the channels of Dijila, Al-Ghad, Al-Furat and Arabiya. They destroyed equipment and expelled workers, journalists working at these channels said.
The Iraqi Ministry of Communications has continued to impose a complete blocking of internet services in all provinces except the semi-autonomous Kurdish region since last week, and has lifted only an hour or two a day to publish the statements of Abdul Mahdi.
“If the net was working in Iraq, Abdul Mahdi’s government would have fallen from the earliest days,” an Iraqi human rights activist told Arab News.
“The videos recorded by demonstrators that we have received, clearly show that some security forces in Baghdad and some other provinces, have not resorted to any nonlethal options to keep protesters away from them or from some buildings. “Live bullets were the first choice of these forces without hesitation.”
Abdul Mahdi attempted to absorb the anger of the demonstrators by launching a package of “extraordinary decisions” distributed by his office in the early hours of Sunday morning, the most prominent of which included the granting of plots of land to low-income families, the construction of 100,000 new homes in the poorest areas, the distribution of a monthly grant to the unemployed and the disabled, the construction of small stalls to provide job opportunities and training courses for graduates and allowing young people to join the Iraqi army.
“These decisions show that Abdul Mahdi is currently floundering. The problem is clear and the solutions are obvious, but he is too weak to make a bold decision and act,” a prominent Shiite politician told Arab News.
“What he has to do is abandon the net of corruptors surrounding him that actually governs, but he won’t do that and they will not let him do so. “The pro-Iran political parties and armed factions see this government as the best so far because Abdul Mahdi put everything in their hands, so they will not either allow the collapse of his government, nor his resignation.”
Rahman Al-Jobouri, an Iraqi analyst, said “the pressure placed on Abdul Mahdi from his allies to prevent his resignation or retreat is enormous.
“They seek to control and end the demonstrations, by force and temptations, as they are betting on the time to restrain the demonstrators and dismantle their front, to turn into small demonstrations that would be easy to end without big noise. “It is clear now that the protests will not end, but what is clearer is that Abdul Mahdi will not resign soon.”