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How to think about Iraq’s demonstrations

Iraq's demonstrations are largely justified and entirely expected as the removal of the problems of sectarianism and insurgency have left the deep structural problems of Iraq’s government and its political economy exposed.
Demonstrators hold the Iraqi flag near burning objects at a protest during a curfew, three days after the nationwide anti-government protests turned violent, in Baghdad, Iraq October 4, 2019. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani - RC1CCAB95C40

With well over a hundred fatalities and thousands of wounded, Iraq’s demonstrations are not over, merely on hold while a major religious holiday is observed in Iraq’s south. Baghdad has a brief respite before they will reportedly resume on Oct. 25.

The demonstrations are largely justified and entirely expected. My last War on the Rocks piece in January warned that unless the Iraqi government made large strides in services, infrastructure and jobs, it was at risk of an uprising against 15 years of failure by Iraq’s governing class. When the government got through the heat of the summer without any major protests, I thought that absent the catalyst of 130-degree days, the government would enjoy a respite until next July. I was obviously mistaken.

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