Politics

Militia attacks further antagonise Iraqi public

By Hassan al-Obeidi in Baghdad

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Iraqi riot policemen stand guard during a demonstration by supporters of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces outside the entrance to the Iraqi capital Baghdad's Green Zone on November 7th, demanding the departure of remaining US forces from Iraq. Only a few hundred protestors showed up at the demonstration. [Ahmed al-Rubaye/AFP]

Iraqi observers speaking to Diyaruna said attacks on Baghdad's Green Zone targeting US and international military bases have increased the Iraqi public's resentment toward Iran.

Although militias have not claimed responsibility for most of these attacks, many Iraqi observers accuse groups affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of launching the attacks.

On Tuesday (November 17th), a volley of rockets slammed into Baghdad, killing one girl and breaking a month-long truce on attacks against the US embassy.

Rocket attacks in Iraq have been claimed by groups described by both US and Iraqi officials as "smokescreens" for hardline Iran-aligned factions in Iraq.

The US has explicitly named Kataib Hizbullah as behind some of the violence and has twice bombed the group.

The group is considered to be Iran's "favoured proxy", experts said, and the most rebellious against the authority of the Iraqi state.

Iran-backed militias have even been accused of carrying out assassinations to silence and intimidate Iraqis opposing their agenda, including activists, journalists and prominent tribal leaders.

Ali al-Darraji, a member of the Iraqi Civil Movement, told Diyaruna attacks carried out by Kataib Hizbullah caused widespread resentment against Iran, which Tehran has not anticipated.

These attacks, he said, were executed by "Iran's puppets" to undermine Iraq's security and stability.

Militia gatherings avoided by public

Al-Darraji said a case in point was a demonstration scheduled for November 7th in Baghdad to call on the US and coalition forces to leave Iraq, which failed to garner enough attraction among the public and revealed how isolated militias are.

"Some 300 militia members, and not any members of the public, showed up for the demonstration," he told Diyaruna.

The gathering was ended early and trucks carrying supplies such as water, juice and banners remained parked on the roadside and their supplies unused.

According to al-Darraji, the Iranian consulates in Najaf and Karbala held an event celebrating the birth of the Prophet Mohammed in late October, to which not even one-fourth of the invitees showed up.

"In fact, the famous Najafi Pickles shop [in Najaf] saw more attendees for its celebration than the Iranian consulate did," he said.

Iraqis concerned about coalition forces withdrawal

Ahmed al-Hamdani, a researcher at al-Rafidain Centre for Dialogue, told Diyaruna the Iraqi public no longer desires the withdrawal of coalition forces because "it is concerned that the IRGC and its proxies would take over their country".

He said recent attacks reveal that the IRGC and its affiliated militias are a major threat to the future of Iraq, now that the threat of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) has diminished.

A recent poll conducted in Baghdad by al-Hamdani's fellow researchers shows most Iraqis believe the withdrawal of international forces will affect the security and stability of Iraq.

"This is why most Iraqis view the presence of the coalition forces as a necessity," he added.

Ali Aziz, a member of Iraq's Southern Tribal Council, told Diyaruna the attacks carried out by armed groups create a hostile environment that deters investors and hinders opportunities for economic recovery.

"Iraqi civilians, especially lower income people, are the main victims of this hinderance and they do not accept their country being threatened by the Iranian regime," he said.

This is why IRGC proxies are being further isolated by the Iraqi public, he said.

Meanwhile, a quick review of social media activity in Iraq shows that the public is growing more and more antagonised by the militias' actions.

Even Tehran's "electronic armies" in Iraq have failed to sway the Iraqi people to support Iran's policies in the region, Aziz said.

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