by Ayman Ahmed
He had hardly settled into the plush comfortable prime ministerial chair in Baghdad, when Mustafa al-Kadhimi was confronted by a sudden outbreak of protests.
Before getting approval from parliament on May 6, Iraq’s prime minister-designate had promised that his government would be a “solution-based, not a crisis government”.
Yet he had to deal with a crisis as the new cabinet held its first meeting on May 9.
Protests erupted in the southern cities of Kut as well as Basra, both home to some of the poorest people in Iraq.
Protesters blocked roads linking the two cities by burning tires.
Reflecting deep anger, the protesters also set fire to the offices of several political parties in Kut as well as a house belonging to an official.
They expressed anger at the ongoing “corruption and theft” in the country, according to Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Sumaria TV network, as reported by Iran’s Press TV.
They also protested against the authorities’ failure to deal with the economic crisis that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
While Al-Kadhimi cannot be held personally liable for these failures, he was part of the government machinery.
He had served as intelligence chief from early 2016 until he was tapped for the prime ministerial post.
He is known to be very close to the Americans and is a British citizen as well.
Following his first cabinet meeting, Al-Kadhimi promised in a televised address, to release demonstrators detained during the protests that erupted last October.
He also pledged justice and compensation to the relatives of nearly 500 people killed during the unrest.
Al-Kadhimi said “the truth about everything that happened” during the months-long protests would be divulged.
The protesters, however, demanded action rather than empty promises that they said they had heard before.
Most of Iraq’s problems can be laid squarely on the shoulders of the US that has interfered in and manipulated the country for decades.
In the 1980s, Washington backed Saddam Husain when he invaded the Islamic Republic of Iran.
When that war ended eight years later, Saddam was lured into a trap to invade Kuwait in August 1990.
The US used that as a pretext to attack Iraq and destroy much of its infrastructure. Thereafter, Iraq was subjected to punishing sanctions.
The country was again invaded in March 2003 and turmoil has continued.
The American occupiers exacerbated sectarian and ethnic divisions in Iraq and also backed terrorist outfits like al-Qaeda and ISIS.
They also spawned a culture of corruption that continues to plague the country.
Whether Al-Kadhimi will be able to address these myriad problems is debatable.
The latest eruption of protests in southern Iraq in the month of Ramadan indicates that people’s tolerance is at breaking point.