How Moqtada al-Sadr could take down Iraq’s government

The Daily Beast reports: Hussain Jassim refused to leave the Green Zone, once considered the impenetrable citadel at the heart of Baghdad, until his leader Muqtada al-Sadr ordered him to do so. “We have entered parliament and we have broken it’s prestige in front of people because they are thieves, they deserve for that to happen to them,” Jassim told The Daily Beast.

He was one of thousands of angry protestors who on Saturday raided the Iraqi legislature, chasing MPs out of their own seats in government, and often assaulting or denouncing those not aligned with al-Sadr trying to run away from the melee. “We saw them fleeing from us,” Jassim said.

Some legislators stayed behind, trapped in the basement of the parliament for fear of not wanting to confront the angry crowd outside. There were even false reports that a few had repaired to the sprawling U.S. embassy complex, seeking refuge from their own countrymen.

Remarkably, Iraq’s security forces tolerated the demonstrators day-long occupation of a notorious no-go area in the capital. The protesters climbed over concrete blast walls and burst through cordons with ease. Some tear gas was used, but law enforcement the state mingled comfortably with those against whom they were meant to guard. “The security forces have dealt with us with a high sense of patriotism and responsibility,” Jassim said.

These protests were a long time going. Iraq’s public coffers are a sieve, where billions have vanished in the salaries of “ghost soldiers” or into the bank accounts of well-connected pols and their kin. Problematic enough in peacetime and during high global oil prices, economic crisis is 2016 has become a national security crisis, as state bankruptcy could easily damage or end the ongoing war against the Islamic State. [Continue reading…]

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