A situation report last week described how Iran’s political and paramilitary proxies in Iraq are increasingly the target of nation-wide protests. The movement has seen no shortage of violence, with hundreds killed since protests first broke out in October. Yet events over the weekend seem to suggest a further deterioration of public order in the country.
On December 6, a group of unidentified assailants fired on protesters, who have been occupying Tahir Square since the demonstrations first broke out, killing some 25 people, including police officers, and wounding another 100. Though no official claim of responsibility has been made (nor will there be), suspicion has fallen on the Popular Mobilization Units, particularly the Iran-linked militias operating under the umbrella of the quasi-state institution. Witnesses say that the attackers were wearing a mix of PMU and armed forces uniforms, and some were in civilian clothes. After firing indiscriminately on crowds, they fled in a convoy of pickup trucks.
Elsewhere, an armed drone exploded near the Najaf headquarters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in what was either an assassination attempt against, or a warning directed at, the Shiite leader who is known for his nationalist (and thus at times anti-Iran) politics.