Weekly Iraq Update


All 2013 Iraq Weekly Updates can be found at http://iswiraq.blogspot.com/

Largest Turnout of Sunni Protesters in Iraq Since Crisis Began-2013 Iraq Update #5a

By Marisa Sullivan and Omar Abdullah

Tens of thousands of Sunnis participated on Friday, February 1, in a day of demonstrations called the “Friday of Loyalty to Fallujah’s Martyrs,” a reference to the violent protest in Fallujah the week prior during which Iraq Army forces killed eight demonstrators.  Friday’s anti-government protests were the largest since the movement began in late December. Demonstrators in Anbar, Ninewa, Salah ad-Din, Diyala, and Baghdad reiterated their demands that the government cancel Article 4 of the Counter-Terrorism Law (which facilitates arrests on security charges), release Sunni detainees held under that law for extended periods without charges or trials, and reform the de-Baathification legislation that has barred many Sunnis from government employment. Crowds also denounced the Fallujah incident and called for the removal of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Students in Mosul condemned the “invasion” of university campuses by Iraqi Army forces, and demanded that security forces act in the national interest and be less aggressive with Iraqi citizens. Demonstrators in Mosul also burned the Iranian flag and carried signs demanding “Nouri, Leave!”

The largest protest occurred in Anbar, where popular committees protected the crowds and searched attendees in order to ensure that they were unarmed, lest anyone attempt to escalate into violence.  Sizable demonstrations also took place in Ninewah and Samarra, with smaller protests in Bayji, Salah ad Din; Baqubah, Diyala; and Baghdad’s Adhamiyah, Ameriya and Doura neighborhoods. The protests remained notably peaceful, and clerics rebuffed calls from al-Qaeda in Iraq for Sunnis to take up arms against the Maliki government. While pro-government protests staged during the early weeks of the crisis have since tapered off, supporters of the Iranian-backed, militant proxy group Asaib Ahl al-Haq gathered in Kut on Friday to denounce Turkey and recent statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to form an “rational government” in Iraq.

Amidst the demonstrations, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq met to discuss the current crisis and the protesters demands with several Shi’ite politicians from the National Alliance, including Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Hadi al-Ameri, and Khalid al-Attiyah. Mutlaq said the meeting was productive, unlike previous ones, and that they reached an agreement to follow up on detainee cases and transfer those held by the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior to facilities run by the Ministry of Justice.

Also on Friday, Muqtada al-Sadr called his ministers to Najaf to discuss the possibility of withdrawing from the government if the protesters’ demands are not addressed. Sadr last pulled his ministers in January 2007, after Maliki refused to set a timetable for the US withdrawal. It is not clear how serious Sadr is in threatening a similar boycott. The move may be an effort to exert leverage over Maliki, and Sadr may not follow through on his rhetoric. Last year, for example, under pressure from other Shi’a parties and Iran, Sadr pulled back from previous threats to side with Iraqiyya and the Kurds in the no-confidence effort even after a much-publicized visit to Erbil.  Nevertheless, the Sadrists are not cooperating with Maliki right now.  On Thursday January 31, Sadrist MP Bahaa al-Araji refused Maliki’s request that Sadrists fill the posts of Iraqiyya ministers who are currently boycotting the cabinet. Prominent Iraqiyya leader and Finance Minister Rafa al-Issawi applauded the Sadrists’ actions and said that Maliki’s effort to enforce compulsory leave for Iraqiyya ministers was unconstitutional.

On Saturday, Maliki called for dialogue to resolve the political crisis in a news conference with Ammar al-Hakim, the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. Maliki stressed that the current standoff does not serve anyone, while Hakim urged the Iraqiyya list to end its parliamentary boycott in order to “create the right climate to speed implementation and application of the resolutions of the Council of Ministers and meet the needs of the demonstrators." Hakim had recently returned from a trip to Iran where he consulted with leaders including Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the current political crisis.

Also on Saturday, hackers calling themselves “Team Kuwait” targeted the prime minister’s website, posting a picture of two mourning women declaring their support for Iraqis who were fighting Maliki’s oppression. The pictures were removed within several hours, and the Maliki government did not comment on the incident, which was the second cyber-attack against Maliki’s office in the last two weeks.

Friday’s protests show that Sunni tribal and religious leaders are continuing their strategy of peaceful demonstrations, despite fears that the current political crisis would escalate into widespread violence following last week’s incident. The peaceful nature of the protests also suggest that tribal leaders have retained control and influence, and that thus far al-Qaeda has not been able to capitalize on disaffected Sunnis to broaden armed resistance.  Reports of outreach between tribal leaders in Anbar, Ninewah, and Salah ad-Din and southern tribes in an effort to foster a dialogue about the protesters demands also indicates a broader movement amongst Iraqi tribes to resolve the crisis. The Maliki government’s response also continues to be one of restraint. Ongoing negotiations between political blocs as well as Iraq’s tribal leaders suggest that all sides have concluded that a violent escalation is not in their interest, at least for now. Still, Maliki is unlikely to accede fully to protesters’ demands, as doing so would undermine a key pillar in his strategy for maintaining security and political dominance.

Past Updates

January 27-February 1, 2013: Weekly Update #5

January 17-26, 2013: Weekly Update #4

January 2-17, 2013: 2013 Weekly Update #3

January 11, 2013: Political Update: Mapping the Iraq Protests

2013 Weekly Iraq Update #1: Protests heighten political crisis

Iraq Update #52- December19-December 27, 2012: Protests swell in western and northern Iraq

Iraq Update #51- December 12-December 19, 2012: Talabani suffers stroke

Iraq Update #50- December 06- December 12, 2012: Jabhat Nusra designation highlights AQI’s regional ambitions

Iraq Update #49- November 29- December 06, 2012: Jordanian Terror Plot Reveals AQI Regional Network

Iraq Update #48- November 21- November 29, 2012: Tentative agreement reached on disputed territories standoff

Iraq Update #47- November 15- November 21, 2012: Freed Daqduq travels to Beirut

Iraq Update #46- November 7-November 15, 2012: Rumors surround Daqduq release

Iraq Update #45- November 2-November 7, 2012: Tigris Operations Command Continues to Cause Concern

Iraq Update #44- October 24-November 2, 2012: Iraq Sets Date for 2013 Provincial Elections as Maliki Renews Push for Majority Government

Iraq Update #43- October 17-October 24, 2012: Kurdish delegations arrive in Baghdad

Iraq Update #42- October 11-October 17, 2012: Central Bank governor suspended amid political disputes

Iraq Update #41- October 3-October 11, 2012: Iraq confirms massive arms deal with Russia

Iraq Update #40- September 26-October 3, 2012: Iraqi leaders gather in Ankara

Iraq Update #39- September 19-September 26, 2012: Protests present political opportunities

Iraq Update #38- September 12-September 19, 2012: Anti-film protests spread throughout Iraq

Iraq Update #37- September 6-September 12, 2012: Vice President Hashemi sentenced to death

Iraq Update #36- August 31-September 6, 2012: Iran resumes shipments of military equipment to Syria through Iraqi airspace

Iraq Update #35- August 22-August 31, 2012: Communications Minister resigns

Iraq Update #34- August 15-August22, 2012: Data suggests rise in violence along historic fault lines

Iraq Update #33- August 3-August 15, 2012: Baghdad’s Tensions with Irbil and Ankara Diminish

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 32- July 27-August 3, 2012

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 31- Al-Qaeda Leader Claims Credit for Deadly Attacks

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 30- July 16-July 20, 2012: Rebels Take Over Syrian Border Checkpoints

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 29- July 6-July 16, 2012: White House Says Daqduq Issue Not Closed

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 28- June 29-July 6, 2012: Sadrists Back Down

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 27- June 16-June 22, 2012: Maliki Requests U.S. To Stop Exxon Operations

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 26- June 9-June 15, 2012: Sadr Returns To Najaf, Speaks With Maliki

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 25- June 1-June 8, 2012: Sadr Goes To Iran, Pressure Likely To Increase

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 24- May 25-June 1, 2012: The Numbers Game

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 23- Efforts To Remove Maliki Intensify

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 22- May 22-May 18, 2012:Hashemi Trial Begins

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 21- May 4-May 11, 2012: Daqduq Case Dismissed

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 20- April 27-May 4, 2012: Ultimatum Issued To Maliki

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 19- April 20-April 27, 2012: Maliki Visits Tehran

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 18- April 14- April 20, 2012: Iraqiyya, Kurds Consider Vote to Unseat Maliki

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 17- Members Appointed To Human Rights Commission

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 16- March 30- April 5, 2012: KRG President Massoud Barzani Visits Washington

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 15- March 23- March 30, 2012: Baghdad Hosts Arab League Summit

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 14- March 15-March 23, 2012: Barzani Disparages Maliki

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 13- March 8- Maliki Visits Kuwait, Emir to Attend Arab Summit

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis,  Update 12- March 6- Diyala Appoints New Governor

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 11- Diyala Governor Reportedly Resigns

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 10- Judiciary Sets Hashemi’s Court Date

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 9- Investigation Escalates Hashemi Case

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 8- Iraqiyya Ends Boycott of Council of Ministers

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 7- Iraqiyya Returns to Parliament

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 6- Iraqiyya Contemplates Next Move

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 5- January 13- Iraqiyya Continues Boycott

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 4- December 30- January 13, 2012: Kurds Walk Out of Parliament Session in Protest

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 3- December 23- December 30, 2011: Tensions Increase between Maliki and Sadrists

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 2- December 19- December 23, 2011: Crisis escalates in Iraqi Media

Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 1- December 19, 2011: Timeline of political crisis

Other Authors: 
Omar Abdullah