Amnesty International urged Iraqi authorities to restrain themselves following a massacre of protesters in Baghdad.
Militants, armed with guns, knives, clubs, screwdrivers and all manner of other weaponry, descended on demonstrators. Protesters were shot, stabbed and killed as the militants attacked like a pack of vicious and hungry wolves.
Unsurprisingly, the militants carried banners of Iraq-sanctioned but Iran-backed Shia jihadist organisations.
One witness said the militants “came in pick-up trucks and minivans. Endless gunmen,” while another said the suspected pro-Iran jihadists “came to kill.”
“They opened fire immediately. They targeted people by shooting straight at them, not in the air. They were not masked. I do not think they care if anybody saw them,” the witness told Amnesty International.
This demonstrates a total lack of regard for international human rights law, not to mention Iraqi laws that prohibit militias from existing in the first place. Yet they persist.
It also shows that the militants are so unafraid of the state and its ability to prosecute them that they were willing to slaughter dozens of citizens while unmasked and in daylight.
In other words, Iran’s legions of hardcore and violent Shia jihadists can act with complete and total impunity.
Why should they be afraid? Iraq’s Interior Ministry, which controls the police, is absolutely infested at every level with Badr Organisation members, one of Iran’s most powerful proxies.
The outgoing caretaker prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, is a long-time committed supporter of Khomeinism, Iran’s state ideology of militant theocracy as taught by the Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The army, SWAT, federal police, military intelligence and the entire security apparatus are riddled with elements whose loyalty is first and foremost to Iran and its vision of what its client Iraqi state should be.
This is precisely how thousands of unmasked Shia jihadists managed to enter central Baghdad, somehow evading the copious checkpoints dotted all over the once-great city.
There is simply no way that Iraqi authorities had no idea that a veritable horde of bloodthirsty fanatics was descending on vulnerable civilians who were calling on those very same authorities to be reformed, root-and-branch. This is not merely a tragic coincidence but a planned and fatal assault on the very democratic ideals the Baghdad-based regime claims to want to uphold.
By committing themselves to such violence, these groups are acting as Tehran’s enforcers. Iran cannot risk losing Iraq as it will affect its imperial designs on Syria, Lebanon and even the threat it poses to regional powers such as Saudi Arabia.
Through sheer brutality, Iran is sending a message that it will not tolerate any risks to its empire and that Iraq will remain under its boot on pain of death to all Iraqis who dare think otherwise.
Rather than cowing the Iraqi population, however, such egregious acts of violence may encourage demonstrators to stop being so peaceful and defend themselves against militants backed by a foreign power bent on their extermination.
Tallha Abdulrazaq is a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute in England.
This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.