Popular demonstrations in Iraq against government corruption, which targeted pro-Iran elements, caught Iran’s rulers by surprise. In order to control the situation in Iraq, they first attempted to enter militias and popular mobilization forces with civilian cloths and without any placards and flags into the demonstrations. By doing so they intended to derail the demonstrations towards their own objectives.
However, with the intensification of the demonstrations, Iran sought to use its suppressive methods to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation within the Iraq demonstrators. The goal was to stop demonstrations and disappoint protesters of reforms. The radicalization of slogans and the people’s demands, especially the demand to arrest, prosecute and execute Maliki and prevent Iran’s interventions in Iraq, changed the scene. Iran changed its tactics and used its militias and popular mobilization forces that are at the service of the Quds Force to turn the peaceful protests into violent ones. Below are examples of the Iranian regime’s attempts to disrupt popular demonstrations in Iraqi provinces.
· After Maliki’s return from Iran, the Iranian regime used its militias in Baghdad to form groups of club-wielders to enter the demonstrations and turn them violent.
· On 14 August 2015, a number of ‘civilian mobilization’ (hashd madani) individuals, most of whom were from the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqqgroup entered the demonstrations and began insulting demonstrators, especially women. They even dragged a woman out of the demonstration. The militias attacked some of the demonstrators and beat them up. They initially intended to chant slogans against particular political leaders, thus derailing the demonstrations, yet they were unsuccessful.
· The Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq militias who took part in the demonstrations as ‘hashd madani’ forces had the following distinctions: they wear military shirts, a cap and a piece of textile around their neck. They bring clubs and knives with them to the demonstrations. One of their persistent targets in the demonstrations is reporters and TV station staff that cover the demonstrations.
· In the demonstration of the people of Nasiriya, a number of militias threw bricks at the police in order to provoke them. A clash broke out between the police and people and a number of demonstrators were injured and wounded.
· The militias in Basra and Nasiriya have told the peaceful demonstrators that the only way to reach your goals is through armed revolt because the government will not answer to peaceful methods.
· Given the people’s demands who want the arrest and prosecution of Maliki, Iran’s policy is to stop the demonstrators. In this regard it has ordered its militias to turn the peaceful demonstrations into violent ones and direct the demonstrators to burn down government buildings and ransack government property. By doing so, Iran wants the demonstrators to face off against the government and intends to initiate sectarian wars in order to cover up the real issue which is the prosecution of Maliki.
· Militias used this policy in the Karbala protests, yet the people and provincial officials’ vigilance foiled the plot.
· Iran has called on its affiliated militias to enter their own security elements within the demonstrations in order to identify the demonstration organizers and to beat up reporters and TV cameramen. This is an attempt to halt the demonstrations after a while.
· The club-wielding militias, in order to derail the demonstrations, have spread rumors amongst the protesters that the main goal of the organizers is to bring down the Shiite base. After people began chanting against Iran’s interventions and demanded the arrest and prosecution of Maliki, on Friday, 14 August, a large number of Asa’ib and Badr militias entered the demonstrators and whenever the people chanted against Iran’s interventions beat up the protesters. The Quds Force had briefed the militias to not show any reaction if the demonstrators chanted against Iraqi officials but use violence if they chant against Iran and Maliki and take them out of the demonstrations.
· During the popular demonstration on Friday, 21 August, Asa’ib and Badr militias entered the demonstrations with an agenda to suppress the protesters. They intended to enter the scene every time slogans were chanted against Maliki and Khamenei and brand the demonstrators with ‘pro-Baath’ and ‘anti-clergy’ labels and beat them up. Therefore, a number of Asa’ib and Badr security elements entered the demonstrations and a number of others who had clubs and knives with them stayed in a yard behind Tahrir Square. They were contingency forces, set to act if necessary.
· During the Friday, 21 August demonstration popular mobilization forces affiliated to the Asa’ib and Badr organization entered the scene to quell the demonstrators. Prior to the demonstration, popular mobilization forces gathered in a section of the Tahrir Square and chanted and demanded their several month unpaid wage. They pretended to be a part of the demonstration, yet when the demonstration began they entered the ranks and by chanting deviant slogans intended to stop the chants for Maliki’s prosecution.
· After the intensification of the demonstrators, Maliki sent his militias to quell the protesters. On Friday, 21 August, a large number of militias from the Kata’ib Emam Ali group, led by Sheikh Abdul-Hussein al-Taii, were sent to the demonstrations by Maliki.
· In order to derail the demonstrations, Iran asked its Iraqi operatives to enter a large number of clerics into the demonstrations on a weekly basis and chant deviant slogans and negatively affect the demonstrations.
· Causing differences between demonstrators and instigating clashes with government forces was one of the measures that Iran has used in previous weeks in several cities.
· In Basra Maliki’s elements used military uniforms to raid the tents of the protesters and destroy their sit-in. In Divaniya and Baghdad, Maliki’s elements used similar methods. When protesters in Baghdad ripped up Maliki’s posters, elements affiliated to Maliki began shooting rounds in the air to cause an atmosphere of fear and intimidation within the demonstrators.