Senior US diplomat privately warns that Iraqi prime minister's resignation 'appears inevitable' amid deadly protests

news

A demonstrator gestures toward the camera during a protest over unemployment, corruption and poor public services in Baghdad, Iraq on Oct. 2, 2019.

(Reuters/Thair al-Sudani)

In the wake of escalating civil unrest and a wave of violent protests across Iraq, the American ambassador to the country has warned that the resignation of the prime minister may be imminent, Task & Purpose has learned.


Matthew Tueller, a career diplomat who took over the Baghdad mission in June, told U.S. military leaders on Saturday morning that it "appears inevitable" that Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi would resign in the face of deadly protests and a call from one of the country's most powerful clerics that the government resign and hold new elections under U.N. supervision.

"Through this move, we assess [Moqtada al-Sadr] is seeking to take advantage of this crisis by giving demonstrators a dramatic response to their anger against the government and strengthening his own hand," Tueller wrote in a classified email sent to U.S. military leaders on Saturday morning.

"Subsequently former PM [Haider al-Abadi] also issued a call for early elections. With these drastic developments the resignation of [Adil Abdul-Mahdi] by as early as today appears inevitable and Iraq's government will enter unchartered [sic] and fraught political territory."

"It is unclear if these moves will slow down the protests or accompanying violence," Tueller concluded.

However, U.S. military leaders in the region remain skeptical of whether Abdul-Mahdi will actually resign or give in to protester's demands, an American military official told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive matters.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have flooded the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere across the country over the past week to protest government corruption, widespread unemployment, and a lack of basic services and infrastructure, The New York Times reported on Saturday.


assets.rbl.ms


Iraqi security forces have responded to the protests with force, leaving more than 100 people dead and injuring as many as 6,000.

Abdul-Mahdi, who has been in office for less than a year, had pledged that he would fix unemployment and combat rampant government corruption, but has yet to make good on those promises, The Washington Post reported Friday.

"Mahdi's resignation may not be enough," Jennifer Cafarella, research director with The Institute for the Study of War, told Task & Purpose. "Muqtada al Sadr has called for the resignation of the entire council of representatives and some of the protesters have gone even farther and called for a complete overthrow of the government."

However, Cafarella cautioned that a changing of the guard would not fix the underlying problems that prompted the protests, and the government's heavy-handed response may backfire.

"It is possible that the combination of this concession and rising levels of targeted killings of protesters will decrease the protests," Cafarella said. "Mehdi's resignation would do nothing to fix the underlying and systemic problems that have triggered these protests, however. Furthermore, there remains a dangerous possibility that the violence provokes protesters to begin arming rather than staying home."

The Iraqi government has responded to unrest by enacting a curfew — which was reportedly lifted on Saturday, according to the New York Times. An internet blackout was temporarily lifted when Abdul-Mahdi gave a speech on Friday, in which he referred to the curfew as "bitter medicine," and claimed security forces were adhering to "international standards."

Meanwhile, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, an influential Shiite cleric, urged the government on Friday to implement reforms and called for an end to the violence before it was "too late," the Washington Post reported.

When asked for comment from Task & Purpose, a State Department spokesperson who declined to be named said "this is an internal matter for the Iraqi people to decide."

"The United States has a strong partnership with Iraq," the official said. "We support its sovereignty and constitutional processes. We continue to monitor the situation closely. We have already called publicly for an end to the violence on all sides."

The Iraqi Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the record.


A UH-60 Black Hawk departs from The Rock while conducting Medevac 101 training with members of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, Feb. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.

At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.

Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."

Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.

Read More Show Less

The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.

Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.

Read More Show Less

I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.

Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.

Read More Show Less

An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps

"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."

news
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.

At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.

Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.

"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."

She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."

It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.

The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.

But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.

The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.

Read More Show Less