Following the rise in demonstrations by the people of Iraq, the direction of these rallies and people’s demands have focused on the arrest and prosecution of the main element behind corruption, being former Iraqi prime minister and dismissed vice president Nouri al-Maliki. This was the demand of demonstrators against corruption expressed in all cities across Iraq. The call by all protests for the arrest and prosecution of Maliki, and chanting slogans against Iran’s meddling in Iraq disrupted all scenarios prepared beforehand by Iran for the status quo in Iraq. In a matter of a few days Tehran attempted to resort to different methods, from using militants, Maliki’s club-wielders and its Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani attempting to meet with senior religious leaders, all aimed at diverting the demonstrations from their main objectives. Currently, Suleimani’s main effort in Iraq is to confront all the demonstrations and bring an end to popular protests and rallies. That is his mission and the reason why he is mainly in Iraq these days.
1. Following Maliki’s return to Iraq, Qassem Suleimani remained in this country more than ever before in order to bring the situation under control for Maliki and prevent his arrest and prosecution. In his meeting with Iraqi officials and senior Shiite religious leaders Qassem Suleimani reminded them of Iran’s two conditions: Maliki must not be prosecuted in any judicial case, and any change in the structure of the Popular Mobilization Force without coordination with Iran is a red line.
2. Qassem Suleimani is clearly terrified of Prime Minister Dr. Haider al-Abadi relying on popular demonstrations and his power coming from the people’s demands, while not being affiliated to Iran. Thus he has ordered Iraqi Shiite coalition leaders that reforms must come with specific indicators. If power is to be summarized in just one individual, and if this individual seeks to take advantage of the people and launch demonstrations, it will most definitely come with threats.
3. Qassem Suleimani became involved with the issues of Maliki from August 18th to resolve his judiciary file. However, with popular demonstrations escalating and calling for Maliki’s arrest and prosecution, along with tearing apart pictures of Khamenei, he was forced to rethink his policy of stopping popular rallies and resort to different methods instead.
4. Qassem Suleimani on Wednesday, August 19th took part in a National Alliance session held in the residence of the coalition chief Ibrahim Jafari. Al-Abadi, Maliki, senior Shiite leader Amar Hakim, National Security Advisor Falih Fayyad, Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi of the Sadrists, Hassan al-Saneed of Maliki’s State-of-Law Coalition, former oil minister Hossein Shahrestani, Badr chief Hadi al-Ameri, Khaled al-Asadi of Maliki’s Dawa Party, Ammar Ta’ma of the Fadhilat Paty and Amir al-Kanani of the Sadrists all took part in this meeting.
5. Al-Abadi expressed his surprise of Suleimani’s presence in the meeting, and his feelings increased when Qassem Suleimani began speaking from the very beginning of the session. Qassem Suleimani said Maliki’s name must be eliminated from the list of suspects in the Mosul dossier in order to control the demonstrations against Maliki. Suleimani also stressed no individual has the right to intervene in the affairs related to the PMF or restructure its ranks and files. In response to Suleimani’s remarks al-Abadi lashed back saying one individual cannot be excluded from the reforms cycle as it will lead the entire process down the drain. Such a measure means rising against the protesters’ demands as they enjoy the support of the Marjaiya, or supreme Shiite religious authority.
6. In a sign of protest Qassem Suleimani says your reforms have only targeted Maliki and this is not an adequate response to all the unsparing support provided for the Shiites in Iraq by the Islamic Republic of Iran. He went on to add that reforms will lead to the crumbling of the PMF. Al-Abadi responded clearly that this session is an internal session of National Alliance members, and reforms will continue as they are demanded by the people and the Marjaiya. In response Qassem Suleimani immediately left the meeting despite Maliki’s requests to remain.
7. In a private meeting with senior Dawa Party leaders Maliki has said considering the widespread scope of the demonstrations and the fact that he and the judiciary are the main targets of the slogans, resolving the judiciary files have become difficult and therefore he must seek a political post providing him with judicial impunity.
8. Maliki has said considering the calls made by the Marjaiya and Muqtada Sadr for people from all walks of life to take part in the demonstrations, it is very doubtful that demonstrations will actually fade down. This will then leave no grounds for any negotiations and concessions, he added. Maliki has even accepted Amar Hakim taking the throne in the National Alliance in return for the coalition guaranteeing he would not be included in any judiciary dossier. Not only Amar Hakim, but all other National Alliance leaders refused to provide such guarantees, saying such a step would mean standing against the Marjaiya and the people, which would come with a very heavy price in today’s conditions.
9. Maliki has amongst his inner circle said considering the fact that the Marjaiya is behind recent rallies and they cannot stop such a momentum, to degrade the issue of Maliki’s prosecution in the demonstrations, it would be better to have Sheikh Qeis order some of the Asaeb al-Haq members enter the demonstrations to derail the slogans and through such means lessen the pressure on Maliki.
10. Maliki ordered a portion of Asaeb forces into the rallies on Friday, August 21st. However, they were immediately identified by the demonstrators and forced to leave the scene. Maliki then sent his club-wielders into the rallies and sought the support of Asaeb and Badr militants to create a climate of fear amongst the demonstrations. However, none of these measures bore any fruit.
11. An individual amongst Qassem Suleimani’s inner circle has told Maliki he must focus his propaganda against the demonstrations. Iran’s policy is to spread rumors in Iraq’s society that the demonstrations have been derailed form their initial objectives and are being led into yet another path by anti-Shiite politicians seeking to turn these rallies into demonstrations against the Marjaiya and Shiite parties. Iran’s goal is to portray this image amongst the population that the reforms have not reached any of their goals, disappointed the demonstrators and by inserting violence into the rallies they have placed them before government forces.
12. On that same day that Sabah al-Obeidi made a call on behalf of Muqtada Sadr for widespread participation in the demonstration on Friday, August 28th, Hassan Kazemi Ghomi, Iran’s former ambassador to Iraq made the following remarks on the popular rallies claiming foreign embassies are behind the demonstrations:
“What we are witnessing in the demonstrations are measures taking place under the cover of waves of protests and popular rallies. Various rallies were formed by different currents pursuing a variety of purposes under the pretext of the people… if you take a look at the slogans changed in these protest gatherings, first they were apparently focused on lack of public services and financial-administrative corruptions. However, little by little, the slogans were redirected to politics, anti-government and furthermore becoming against the Marjaiya and Shiite political-religious groups… there is intelligence showing various embassies that support terrorism in Iraq and always had roles in supporting terrorism, were effective in provoking these recent currents.”