Iraq parties, allies debate new PM as violence hits shrine cities


Representatives involve Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah

Iraqi politicians and their regional allies gathered in Baghdad on Tuesday to discuss a way out of two months of protests that brought down the government, as violence hit southern cities.

Demonstrators demanding root-and-branch reform have flooded the capital and the Shiite-majority south since October in the largest grassroots movement the country has witnessed in years.

Seen as a threat to the ruling elite, the rallies were met with a heavy-handed response from security forces that has left over 420 people dead and nearly 20,000 wounded.

After a fresh uptick of violence last week, Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi formally resigned and talks to find a replacement have intensified this week in Baghdad.

Among those attending the negotiations are two key allies of Iraq’s main Shiite parties: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards commander Major General Qasem Soleimani and Lebanese power-broker Mohammad Kawtharany, a high-ranking political source said. “Soleimani is in Baghdad to push for a particular candidate to succeed Abdel Mahdi,” the source said, without providing details.

Mr. Kawtharany, who is Lebanese militant group Hezbollah’s pointman on Iraq, “is also playing a large role in persuading Shiite and Sunni political forces on this”, the source added.

Political powers in Shiite-majority Iraq have long had close ties with counterparts in Iran and Lebanon further west, both of which have also been rocked by protests in recent weeks.

The U.S. said Soleimani’s presence showed that its arch-foe Iran was again “interfering” in Iraq.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 9:22:27 PM |

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