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As Iraq’s demonstrations continue, what comes next?

Iraq's demonstrations are important and outside actors should pay heed and do what they can to help prevent a catastrophic outcome.
Iraqi demonstrators take part in an ongoing anti-government protests, in Baghdad, Iraq November 5, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily - RC1145C0BE40

Iraq’s demonstrations appear to have settled into at least a temporary “new normal.” In Baghdad, the protesters have a more or less constant occupation of Tahrir Square and the adjacent “Turkish restaurant” building, which provides an overlook from its 14 stories. While reliable numbers are hard to get, there are clearly hundreds of thousands, and some claim over a million, demonstrators who are maintaining  consistent, day-after-day presence. This includes at least a significant minority holding the “terrain” at night so that it is not reclaimed by security forces, despite the use of lethal violence that has claimed over (perhaps well over) 200 lives.

That the Iraqi demonstrations are not a daily story in the Western media is both understandable and puzzling. At one level, the “Iraq fatigue” of the Western (and especially American) news consumer is commonplace. But at another level, what is happening in Baghdad — and in other cities throughout southern Iraq as wel l— is something new and novel, just not for Iraq, but perhaps something new in absolute terms.

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