The public’s demands are just and their patience is all but gone, so Baghdad needs to get on with the hard work of opening up the economy and providing critical services before the violence spirals out of control.
While Washington focuses on getting Baghdad to rein in militias and end its dependency on Iranian energy, Iraqi citizens have been seething about other matters. Fueled by anger at the government’s rampant corruption and failure to deliver services or jobs, a series of spontaneous, leaderless protests erupted in Baghdad on October 1 and spread to a number of towns in central and southern Iraq. Initially nonviolent, the demonstrations quickly drew lethal fire from security forces, which only enraged the protestors and increased their numbers. By week’s end, casualties had reached sixty-five dead and over a thousand wounded, including security personnel. The government crackdown also included an Internet blackout and curfews, which protestors promptly defied. The unrest could escalate further unless Baghdad presents credible pathways to providing employment and cleaning up corruption, areas that the United States can help with.
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