Iraqi prime minister turns to tribal leaders for support as pressure mounts from protests

The rhetoric of the Iraqi prime minister appeared to be at odds with actions of the security forces dealing with protesters.
Sunday 24/11/2019
Hopeless manoeuvres. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi speaks in Baghdad, last October.(AFP)
Hopeless manoeuvres. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi speaks in Baghdad, last October.(AFP)

LONDON - Facing nearly two months of anti-corruption protests calling for his resignation, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi sought to secure the backing of tribal leaders for his reform promises.

“We are working to reform the country to meet the requirements of comprehensive development, not just to meet legitimate demands (of protesters),” read a statement from the prime minister’s office regarding Abdul-Mahdi’s November 20 meeting with tribal leaders.

The same statement included lavish praise for the country’s tribes.

“The tribes were on the front lines at all times. They sent brave men to the battlefields to fight against the Islamic State. They are truly the army of the Marjaaiya (religious establishment) and the people. They stood by our forces until we achieved victory,” it read.

The statement also took a reconciliatory tone towards the protesters.

“The protests are legitimate and the constitution grants the freedom of expression. (The protests) unveiled the faults in our political system… which must be rectified,” it added.

The rhetoric, however, appeared to be at odds with actions of the security forces dealing with protesters.

More than 340 people, mostly demonstrators, have been killed since mass protests began October 1. At least 3,000 people have been injured during the same period, the Iraqi Alliance of Disabilities Organisation said.

Despite heavy-handed security measures, which included curfews and restricting the internet, the protests continued.

Abdul-Mahdi’s mention of the Marjaaiya did not ease pressure on the prime minister. Top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani reiterated on November 22 his support for the protesters, calling on the government to swiftly implement reforms.

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