situation report

Iraq: Anti-Government Clashes Leave Two Dead, Unrest Likely to Continue

2 MINS READOct 2, 2019 | 16:01 GMT

What Happened: Two protesters died in Baghdad and 160 were wounded in clashes Oct. 1 with security forces, 40 of whom were wounded, AP reported Oct. 2. Similar demonstrations occurred in Nasiriyah and Basra, and smaller gatherings took place in a handful of other cities. Security forces blocked major routes Oct. 2 to Baghdad's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the Oct. 1 protests, though several dozen protesters gathered on its perimeter, and security forces reportedly killed one.

Why It Matters: The outpouring of anti-government sentiment seems to have taken Baghdad by surprise, and presents a serious problem for Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who is struggling to satisfy Iraqis' demands for better social and economic services. The government has few economic solutions aside from small cash transfers, deferring austerity measures and the costly option of employing more Iraqis in the public sector. The violent crackdown will inflame anti-government sentiment, which to an extent has transcended sectarian differences, posing some challenge to Iranian influence in Iraq. 

Context: Lower oil prices have made it tough for the Iraqi government to pay for social services for needy Iraqis, service its high government debt, and pay for its import and hefty military and security needs. Iraq has become increasingly dependent on imports of basic goods from Iran, and for help covering its electricity needs. Reducing this dependence would be difficult, assuming Baghdad even wanted to.

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