Iraqi protesters denounce Iranian interference
By Faris al-Omran
Public rejection of Iranian interference is palpable in the protest movement that has rocked Iraq since October 1st, demonstrators and analysts said.
The slogans shouted on the streets of the Shia-dominated south and emblazoned on banners unfurled at popular demonstrations reflect the Iraqi street's resentment of the Iranian regime, they said.
Some protestors who spoke with Diyaruna said they came out to denounce the influence of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its affiliates, which they accuse of sparking conflict and hijacking Iraqi sovereignty.
A protestor at Baghdad's Tahrir Square who asked that he be referred to simply as "Abu Abbas" told Diyaruna it is unacceptable to stay silent now in the face of what he described as “Iranian arrogance”.
A key demand for protestors is “to be free of the dominance of that regime and its interference that jeopardises our country’s unity, safety and future”, he said.
Another protestor, who asked that only his first name, Laith, be used, told Diyaruna he had come to Tahrir Square all the way from Basra, in solidarity with other protestors.
“Our motto here is that we want a free and independent nation in which Iran does not interfere," he told Diyaruna.
“We demand that the Iranian regime refrain from hurting us with its militias that have been spilling Iraqi blood, destroying our economy, violating our rights and freedoms and our sovereignty," he said.
"Iraq belongs to Iraqis, and they alone determine their future," he said.
A threat to Iran
The protests in Iraq represent a real threat to Iran, which has been trying to consolidate the power of the IRGC and its affiliates in Iraq and the region, particularly in Iraq's southern provinces, analysts said.
"The Iranians were shocked when the people of these provinces came out against Iran and its agents, and that all segments of society would stand by them," strategic and military analyst Rabie al-Jawary told Diyaruna.
What makes this public outcry so remarkable is that it is not driven by any particular political party, he said.
The protestors demand reforms and an end to corruption, he said, and they are "courageously expressing their anger regarding the negative role Iran is playing in the affairs of their country”.
According to al-Jawari “it goes without saying that the Iranian regime would be afraid, as the slogans condemning it are loud and clear, and no one can dismiss them or underestimate their impact".
In response, he said, Iran has attempted to protect its influence, which has been met with public resentment not only in Iraq but also in Lebanon and Syria.
Tehran has sought to quell the protests, with sources reporting that IRGC Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani made several visits to Iraq to "advise" the Iraqi authorities on how to handle the rallies.
The protests are at least in part a "cry from the Iraqi people in the face of Iranian tyranny represented by the IRGC that is fueling chaos everywhere through its armed factions”, al-Jawari said.
Protestors in Baghdad have been ripping up pictures of Iranian leaders, and videos circulated on social media show protestors marking out the name of “Khomeini Street" in downtown Najaf on street signs.
On November 3rd, a crowd of protesters in Karbala gathered around the Iranian consulate. They tried to scale the blast walls, aimed fireworks at the building and hung Iraqi flags on the concrete fortifications.
Somebody spray-painted "Karbala is free, Iran out, out!" on the consulate's wall.
The protests have exposed the level of Iraqi anger at the policies of the Iranian regime which “have wreaked havoc on Iraqis and other people in the region”, strategy expert Alaa al-Nashou told Diyaruna.
The popular resentment of Iranian hegemony is a “natural reaction” to the behaviour of the Iranian regime, which has been attempting to consolidate its power by weakening its neighbours and taking over their resources, he said.
The Iraqi people are “well aware of Iranian ambitions, and refuse to be easy prey for the IRGC” and its affiliates, al-Nashou added.