Al Qaeda and ex-Baathists ‘exploiting’ protests against Maliki

KT News and Comment:

Demonstration in Anbar

Demonstration in Anbar

Southern Iraq continues to be convulsed every week by mass demonstrations called by pro-Sunni parties protesting at the authoritarian and sectarian policies of Maliki’s pro-Shia government.

In Anbar and Ramadi, opposition forces are threatening to march on Baghdad to conduct their Friday prayers in the capital. This would amount to a political earthquake, dramatically challenging Maliki’s rule.

At the same time, organisers of the Anbar protests are calling on the government not to use violence and intimidation against protestors. This follows yesterday’s killing by state forces of an anti-government demonstrator in Mosul, which has in turn provoked the resignation of agriculture minister Azadin Dawla from the government.

A further, worrying development is the appearance of openly sectarian slogans on the demonstrations, particularly in Anbar – which will frighten the authorities due to that city’s proximity to the border with Syria, where Al Qaeda elements are reportedly now active.

Yesterday a Sadrist MP told the media that he is sure that both al Qaeda and ex-Baathist factions are exploiting the anti-government protests in Iraq.

However, the responsibility for this dangerous development rests ultimately with the Maliki regime. A true government of the people would be urgently negotiating with democratic opposition forces, and making political concessions in the interests of national stability and public safety.

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