BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraq has been plunged into a new cycle of instability that potentially could be the most dangerous this conflict-scarred nation has faced, barely two years after declaring victory over the Islamic State (IS) group in a war that left much of the country in ruins and displaced tens of thousands.
The latest bloody confrontations have killed more than 100 people in less than seven days. But this time, the clashes do not pit security forces against extremists or insurgents against occupation forces.
Instead, Iraqi security forces have been shooting at young Iraqis demanding jobs, electricity and clean water – and an end to corruption.
It’s still unclear why the government chose to exercise such a heavy-handed response to a few hundred unarmed demonstrators who first congregated last week on social media to hold a protest.
But analysts say the violence has pushed Iraq toward a dangerous trajectory from which it might be difficult to pull back.
As the spontaneous protests – with no apparent political leadership emerging – continued to clash with security forces in Iraq cities and towns, the government appeared unapologetic and failed to offer solutions to entrenched problems, raising fears that yet another Arab nation will be mired in a long-term crisis without a path forward.
“The use of force coupled with cosmetic concessions will work to temporarily ease pressure but will not end the crisis,” wrote Ayham Kamel, Middle East and North Africa head at Eurasia Group. This cycle of protests could be contained, but the political system will continue to lose legitimacy.”