Thursday, May 12, 2016

Iraqi PM fires head of Green Zone forces and tightens security

Iraq's prime minister Haider Al-Abadi has fired the commander of special forces in Baghdad's Green Zone after protesters were able to breach the concrete walls recently and enter the parliament buildings.

The move by PM Al-Abadi is a sign that Al-Abadi is taking a harder line against protesters as he tightens security. He vowed to prevent another breach of the Green Zone.
Al-Abadi replaced Lieutenant-General Mohammed Ridha with Major General Kareem al-Tamimi, according to sources. Ridha had been seen on videos kissing the hands of leader of the protests Muqtada Al-Sadr when he entered the Green Zone for a sit-in in March. The protesters are demanding that Al-Abadi establish a reform government of technocrats to stem the tide of corruption engaged in by Iraqi political parties. Al-Abadi has been unable to meet protesters' demands so far because of resistance from politicians who profit from the existing system.
Taif Jany, Program Manager at Education for Peace in Iraq Center told Al Aribiya: “The fortifications reinforce a literal barrier between Parliament and the people. Not only is the government's business conducted without our input, but we are also cut off by razor wire, guards, and enormous concrete fences...The Green Zone contains the homes of Members of Parliament and high-ranking officials and this represents a significant class difference which begs the question: how can you represent us if you don't live among us?"
Protests are expected again today and the protesters could attempt to enter the Green Zone. Al-Abadi called on all who want reforms to respect the law. Iraqi security forces have blocked major roads and bridges in an attempt to keep followers of Moqtada al-Sadr from reaching the area around the Green Zone. A Sadr representative asked supporters to rally outside mosques after Friday afternoon prayers rather than at the heavily fortified Green Zone in order to avoid clashes. Three regiments of an elite police division that had been battling Islamic State militants has now been deployed to protect the Green Zone. On one bridge over the Tigris River dozens of counter-terrorism forces manned Humvees mounted with machine guns. They were behind two blast walls 12 feet high. The head of Sadr's political office claimed that large-scale demonstrations were being put off until next Tuesday when a parliamentary session was planned. According to CBC News correspondent, Charlie D'Agata, security forces had worked overnight to erect the blast walls on the bridge leading into the Green Zone.

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