Rebellion of a rich country’s poor

Hazem al-Amin

Published: Updated:

The war on terror has ended in Iraq and levers of power now rest in the hands of Shiite parties with varying degrees of links with Iran. Who is responsible for this failure? Who is the corrupt? Which party is depriving Iraqi people of their national wealth? The country of Tigris and Euphrates is thirsty!

The country with the third largest oil reserves in the world is staggering without electricity. The country claiming “victory over ISIS” is controlled by militias of the Popular Mobilization Forces which are no less sectarian than ISIS! The country of free elections is experiencing the biggest electoral fraud!

Today, the deteriorating situation has been worsened by a new element. The protests have revealed a bitter truth. The Najaf Airport which protesters stormed and closed is managed by the militias of five parties including the ruling Dawa party. In this sense, the news from Iraq is more surprising than news emanating from some of the “banana republics” in Central America.

It is too early to say whether what is happening in Iraq is a revolution or even an uprising. It is a declaration by the Iraqis, mainly Shiites, that they’re annoyed by the Shiite authority in the country. So far there seems to be no political channels for dealing with these protests

Hazem al-Amin

Popular protests in Iraq, Iran

There is failure on so many levels, and it is now borrowing expertise from outside the borders and it’s more persistent than ever in wiping out the limits of sovereignty. This failure authorizes Tehran to manage Iraq’s regional location, subjects Iraq to the possibility of sanctions and their repercussions and has made Iraq turn its back on Turkey and punish the Kurds on a sectarian basis.

Iraq is also fighting in Syria and marginalizing Arab Sunnis while its new “elite” is reaching out to Beirut to invest in the Shiite economy. All of this is happening at a time when the Iraqi “Shiite” citizen is feeling thirsty and hungry under the hot July sun.

OPINION: Syria’s encrypted messages to Jordan

But this July uprising in Iraqi cities comes at a time when some Iranian cities are also witnessing protests. This must be taken into consideration since the two uprisings are happening at the same time and are targeting two inter-related authorities that seem co-dependent on each other.

We must also note the differences between the two regimes as when it comes to the Iraqi experience, it’s not possible to deter an uprising via the authority’s move to block the internet. The Iraqi government has actually done so, and this is more than a symbolic borrowing of Tehran’s tools of suppression of its people’s protests.

It is too early to say whether what is happening in Iraq is a revolution or even an uprising. It is a declaration by the Iraqis, mainly Shiites, that they’re annoyed by the Shiite authority in the country. So far there seems to be no political channels for dealing with these protests. Muqtada al-Sadr is presently at the center of negotiations regarding the future of his movement in the government after winning the elections and the ruling Dawa party has the ability to ride the wave of protests through Nouri al-Maliki.

ALSO READ: Houthi disarmament prerequisite for ending war in Yemen

The strange thing is that Iraq is not a closed country. This was the only benefit of Washington's move to take down Saddam Hussein's regime. It is an open country and has a failed sectarian authority, which along with its opponents is protected by a religious authority based in Najaf. Najaf is where the authority’s parties have spread their control over the airport, at a time when its poor people have not benefited from the accumulated wealth from major investments, which provided services to tens of millions of visitors each year.

Scenes from hell

Basra was also supposed to be one of the richest cities in the world. The wealth of Iraq is located there and has the only beach in Mesopotamia. The city today is searing in the heat of July. Oil itself is blocked in the southernmost city, as it is floating in underground channels not far below earth’s surface.

OPINION: The Muslim Brotherhood controversy in the West

Its smell reeks in the city, and if you add to that the heat of July and August, you’d realize that life there is a living hell on earth. The new rich class of the city has set up its islands away from the hellish summer. Meanwhile, the job opportunities provided by international oil companies which rushed to their city are not enough for the poor.

Iraq has experienced the Baath atrocities and an ongoing calamity of wars and death. It has since endured the sway of Shiite religious parties, which have also failed at various levels.

Today there is an uprising in Iraq in the wake of a parallel uprising in Iran and amid a major change in Tehran’s position after its massive expansion into the Levant. Now, we have to wait and observe.

This article is also available in Arabic.


Hazem al-Amin is a Lebanese writer and journalist at al-Hayat. He was a field reporter for the newspaper, and covered wars in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza. He specialized in reporting on Islamists in Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Kurdistan and Pakistan, and on Muslim affairs in Europe. He has been described by regional media outlets as one of Lebanon's most intelligent observers of Arab and Lebanese politics.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.