1 1 (November 12, 2019)

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   Congressional                                                                    _____
              Research Service
                 nforming the leg slative debate since 1914





Iraq: Protests and the Future of U.S.

Partnership



Updated November 12, 2019
Mass protests and state violence against some protestors have shaken Iraq since October 2019, with more
than 300 Iraqis reported dead and thousands more injured in demonstrations and isolated clashes in
Baghdad and southern Iraq. Protestors and some prominent political figures have demanded the
resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abd Al Mahdi and his cabinet, channeling nationalist, nonsectarian
sentiment and a range of frustrations into potent rejections of the post-2003 political order. Current
protests reiterate past demonstrators' concerns (with some louder critiques of Iranian interference), but the
scope and endurance of the protests are unprecedented in Iraq's recent history. U.S. officials have not
endorsed demands for an immediate transition, but protestors' calls for improved governance, reliable
local services, more trustworthy and capable security forces, and greater economic opportunity broadly
correspond to stated U.S. goals.
The nature, duration, and response to the protests are deepening U.S. concerns about Iraq's stability.
Related future developments could complicate U.S. efforts to partner with Iraq's government as Iraq
recovers from war with the Islamic State (IS, aka ISIS/ISIL) and seeks to maintain its sovereignty.
Congress is considering President Donald Trump's requests for additional military and civilian aid for
Iraq without certainty about the future of Iraq's governing arrangements or how change might affect U.S.
interests.


Iraqi Perspectives and Proposed Solutions

The prime minister and some Iraqi officials acknowledge shortcomings in the current political system, but
express concern that a period of potentially violent uncertainty could accompany a sudden transition.
Other Iraqi officials, Iran's Supreme Leader, and Iran-aligned Iraqi militia leaders contend that the protest
movement is a foreign-backed conspiracy. These critics have pledged to defend their interests, especially
in light of some protestors' isolated attacks on various party headquarters, an Iranian diplomatic facility,
and some security forces and militia personnel. Iran reportedly is working to shape transition
arrangements to preserve its interests and those of its Iraqi partners.
Leaders of Iraq's Shia Muslim religious establishment have expressed solidarity with the protestors,
called for reforms, urged demonstrators to reject violence, rejected foreign interference, and condemned

                                                                  Congressional Research Service
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