Saturday 22 February 2020
News ID: 71486
Publish Date: 08 October 2019 - 21:59

BAGHDAD (Dispatches) -- Iraq woke up Tuesday from its first quiet night after a week of protests that left dozens dead and sparked a crisis its president said required a "national dialogue".
Morning traffic around the city was back to normal, most streets had reopened and an internet blackout in place for most of the past week appeared to ease just hours before parliament was expected to meet.
His voice sometimes breaking during a televised address, President Barham Saleh appealed for "sons of the same country" to put an end to the "discord" that has reigned since protests erupted one week ago.
They began in Baghdad, with young demonstrators demanding an end to rampant corruption and chronic unemployment but then escalated with calls for an ouster of the political system spreading to the south after suspicious elements reportedly infiltrated the ranks of the protesters.
They were unprecedented because of their apparent spontaneity, but have also been exceptionally deadly -- with more than 100 people killed and 6,000 wounded since Tuesday.
Saleh said those responsible for the violence were "enemies of the people" and proposed a cabinet reshuffle, more oversight to stamp out corruption, and a "national, all-encompassing and frank dialogue without foreign interference.”
Iraq’s popular Hashd al-Sha’abi paramilitary force also warned that those who sought to "defame Iraq will be punished".
?An Iraqi interior ministry spokesman has said an investigation is underway to determine how protesters were shot dead during six days of unrest.
Saad Maan, a spokesman for the ministry, claimed on Sunday that security forces did not confront the protesters, adding that "malicious hands” were behind targeting protesters and security members alike. Maan said most of those killed on Friday were hit in the head and heart.
Saleh was not the first to suggest a way out of the political crisis. Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and parliament speaker Muhammad Hal-Halbusi have both proposed a laundry list of reforms to address popular grievances.
On Sunday night, rallies there left at least 13 people dead after they escalated into clashes with troops. The army acknowledged using "excessive force" and said they would hold commanding officers accountable.
The calm returning to Baghdad comes a few weeks ahead of Arba’een, the massive pilgrimage that sees millions of Muslims walk to the holy city of Karbala, south of Baghdad.
Nearly two million came last year from neighboring Iran. Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Monday "enemies" were trying to drive a wedge between Tehran and Baghdad.
"Iran and Iraq are two nations whose hearts & souls are tied together through faith in God, love for Imam Hussein and the progeny of the Prophet (PBUH). This bond will grow stronger day by day," the Leader's official Twitter account cited Ayatollah Khamenei as saying.
Iran’s Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi on Monday said those responsible for the unrest in Iraq aimed to undermine Arba’een.
"The seditionists intend to undermine and sap enthusiasm for this great event," he said. "The vigilant people of Iraq exposed this sedition. But everyone must be careful. The seditionists are seeking new tricks at any moment to overshadow the Arba’een ceremony and to undermine it."
The Iranian daily Kayhan said "evidence" pointed to the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the occupying regime of Israel being involved.
A columnist in Iran’s reformist Shargh daily also suggested the Americans, Israelis and Saudis might be the "hidden hands" behind the Iraqi protests.
"Even if that is not the case, the chaotic and tense situation in Iraq today can prepare the grounds for these actors to ride the wave to fulfill their objectives and demands," wrote Abdelrahman Fathollahi.

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