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Demonstrators gather at a protest during a curfew, two days after the nationwide anti-government protests turned violent, in Baghdad, Iraq October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Foreign Intelligence Services Running Rampant in Iraq Protests

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Alwaght– The protests in Iraq have grown violent less than a month since they erupted, as at the same time the nature of the demands and slogans have fundamentally changed. As time goes by, the veils drop from figures and groups who initially hid behind the peaceful demonstrations. On Monday, an Iraqi security official broke the news about the arrest of a UAE-linked network of spies containing Iraqi and Lebanese agents who have had a mission to arrange the popular protests and orchestrate actions compromising the Iraqi security. The network was hugely funded by Abu Dhabi, the security official said.

Hidden foreign hands 

Voice of Iraq radio station delivered a report on the case saying that the UAE-funded network is linked to the Emirati intelligence agency which is directly headed by Tahnoun bin Al Zayed, UAE’s national security advisor and foreign intelligence service chief.

Upon the protests start, some launched a campaign to distribute food and other living needs among the protestors all to attract more people to the streets. This was a kind of replication of Arabaeen religious ceremony in the country. Even it was a rivalry to it for political agenda.

According to eyewitnesses, in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, as one of the key protest sites, some people distributed cash among the demonstrators while engaging in talks with them. The same people spread rumors about the killing of protestors by the security forces in attempts to provoke the people for violence. Two of these people, who were Lebanese and directly provided with cash by the Emirati official, were arrested by the Iraqi security forces. Abu Dhabi has reportedly resorted to mediation by some Western sides to persuade Iraq to release them.

The foreign meddling in Iraq protests was not much of a surprise. A foreign network in charge of the management of the protests, like in Syria, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, is active in Iraq with direct links to the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and very secretly the Israeli regime.

Tel Aviv meddles in Iraq events through the Palestinian politician Mohammad Dahlan who serves as an advisor to Tahnoun bin Zayed. Intelligence sources note that a budget of $150 million to fulfill a complicated mission in Iraq was provided by Saudi Arabia. Two command rooms, according to the same sources, are active one in the American embassy in Bagdad and the other in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah. Some agents and civil organizations funded by the embassy led a penetration mission. Formally known as the Iraqi Civil Society Organization, the US-backed groups reach to 50,000 with an annual budget of $701 million directly from the US government. The fact is that the US has managed to penetrate deep into the Iraqi security and intelligence layers and recruit agents to Saudi Arabia. A recently discovered letter from an Iraqi security officer to the Saudi king’s office suggests that the focus is on bringing people to the streets and fueling violence.

Plans and long-term goals 

At least two sources can lead us to the reality that Iraq’s protests are pre-planned. One is the remarks made by Qais al-Khazali, the chief of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq group who in September, a month before the eruption of the demonstrations, unveiled the developing plots to topple the government. The second source is the comments by Thamer Sabhan, the former Emirati minister of for Persian Gulf affairs, who in last summer promised a gathering in the UAE that October 2019 will witness “huge and different” protests.

The plot was mean to trigger clashes between Shiite groups. In the 2018 election, Sadr-led Saeroon and Amiri-led Fatah alliances won a majority in parliamentary elections. Muqtada al-Sadr is an influential Shiite leader. Hadi al-Amiri is the commander of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) or Hashd al-Shaabi, a military organization founded in opposition to the ISIS terrorist group in 2014. Nasr alliance, also a Shiite bloc, came third. Such a political makeup in Iraq for the US and the Israeli regime that seek to blockade Iran politically and economically through sanction and so cut Tehran’s regional influence is unacceptable.

What happened in Iraq was coordination inside a network of countries that mobilized their forces online and on the ground to make the most. Several state buildings and headquarters of some Shiite organizations in alliance with Iran-led Axis of Resistance like Badr Organization and Asaib were set aflame. The plotters hoped that intensified violence will instigate PMF’s reactions that put them face to face with the Iraqis and Shiites.

Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar acquired information showing that the October protests had three plans: Isolating Baghdad from other provinces, closing the airports to prevent officials’ exit, and breaking into Baghdad’s high profile Green Zone to destroy state buildings.

To realize this plan, the first figure to be taken down was the prime minister. With Abdul Mahdi’s removal, a domino effect will be initiated, taking down many political figures. Dismissal of Abdel Wahab al-Thameri, the head of Counterterrorism Service, by the PM provided an excuse for attacks against him. The foreign intelligence services’ propaganda and rumors run rampant against the PM among the people.

The root cause of the hostility to the PM is his effort to boost relations with Iran and Syria. Despite the US pressures and Israeli airstrikes in Iraq, Abdul Mahdi opened a vital border crossing with Syria. This was a threat to plans of Washington and Tel Aviv that have been struggling over the past years to maintain instability and terrorism in Syria and Iraq. His move potentially connected Tehran to Damascus through Baghdad in practice and provided access for Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. Additionally, after a renewed wave of anti-Iranian pressures started, Abdul Mahdi frustrated eight-month efforts to sow division between Tehran and Baghdad. The PM resoundingly challenged Trump’s agenda to cut Iran’s influence. He also spent huge money to eradicate corruption in the country. He allocated a considerable budget to continue the anti-ISIS fight. But the expansion of protests and possible removal of the PM go against the Iraqi people’s political and economic interests and play into the hands of foreign actors, Baathist remnants, and the extremist pant-Arabs.

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