At least 45 protesters were shot dead by Iraqi security forces on Nov. 28 after demonstrators set fire to an Iranian consulate the night before, amid a months-long uprising against the Tehran-backed authorities.
Protesters set ablaze the Iranian consulate in Iraq’s city of Najaf in what was described by reports as one of the worst attacks targeting Iranian interests in the country since the protests first erupted two months ago. No Iranian staff were harmed in the attack, as they escaped out the back door.
Iran‘s foreign ministry condemned the consulate attack, with Tehran calling for a “responsible, strong and effective” response to the incident from Iraq’s government, said Abbas Mousavi, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, in statements to Iran’s official IRNA news agency.
Anti-government protests have gripped Iraq since Oct. 1, when thousands took to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite south. The largely leaderless movement accuses the government of being corrupt and has also decried the Iranian regime’s growing influence in Iraqi state affairs.
Iraq’s prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, has so far rejected calls to resign, which came after he met with senior politicians who were attended by the commander of Iran‘s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, the elite unit that directs its militia allies abroad.
In 2007, the U.S. Treasury gave the IRGC’s Quds Force a terrorist designation and has described it as Iran’s “primary arm for executing its policy of supporting terrorist and insurgent groups.”
In a statement released earlier this month by the United States, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham condemned Iraq’s attacks against protesters and the media.
“The United States is seriously concerned by continued attacks against protestors, civic activists, and the media, as well as restrictions on Internet access, in Iraq. Iraqis won’t stand by as the Iranian regime drains their resources and uses armed groups and political allies to stop them from peacefully expressing their views,” Grisham said on Nov. 11.
“Despite being targeted with lethal violence and denied access to the Internet, the Iraqi people have made their voices heard, calling for elections and election reforms.”
“The United States joins the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq in calling on the Iraqi government to halt the violence against protesters and fulfill President Salih’s promise to pass electoral reform and hold early elections.”
“We also call on the rest of the international community to join us in supporting a better future for the Iraqi people.”
Security forces have killed at least 350 people so far. The forces regularly use live ammunition and tear gas to disperse crowds, sometimes shooting protesters directly with gas canisters.
On Nov. 21, President Donald Trump condemned censorship actions taken by Iran’s regime against its own people.
“Iran has become so unstable that the regime has shut down their entire Internet System so that the Great Iranian people cannot talk about the tremendous violence taking place within the country,” he wrote on Twitter.
“They want ZERO transparency, thinking the world will not find out the death and tragedy that the Iranian Regime is causing!” Trump added.
The Iranian regime began with a combination of Soviet-style subversion and the influences of Sayyid Qutb—a founding father of the Muslim Brotherhood—who combined socialism with Islam to create the ideology at the core of totalitarian theocracies throughout the Muslim world, according to Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
In a Nov. 6 statement, the United States said it has a “strong and abiding interest in a secure and prosperous Iraq able to defend the nation against violent extremist groups and able to deter those who would undermine Iraqi sovereignty and democracy.”
“As the world watches events in Iraq unfold it is increasingly clear that the Government of Iraq and the country’s political leaders must engage seriously and urgently with Iraqi citizens who are demanding reform,” according to the statement.
“There is no path forward based on suppression of the will of the Iraqi people.”
“We deplore the killing and kidnapping of unarmed protesters, threats to freedom of expression, and the cycle of violence taking place. Iraqis must be free to make their own choices about the future of their nation.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report