In Rudaw

Pompeo laments ‘tragic loss’ of Iraq protester lives, urges Baghdad’s ‘maximum restraint’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has condemned lethal violence during protests in Iraq in a phone call with Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, calling on Baghdad to “exercise maximum restraint” and address protester grievances.

“Secretary Pompeo condemned the recent violence in Iraq and noted that those who violated human rights should be held accountable,” the US Department of State announced on Tuesday night, not detailing when the phone call was held.

“The Secretary lamented the tragic loss of life over the past few days,” the phone call readout said, adding that the foreign minister urged the Iraqi government to exercise maximum restraint.

Protests over unemployment, corruption, nepotism, and lack of services gripped Baghdad and southern Iraq from October 1 to 7. Protests continued Tuesday night in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City.

Security forces responded to protests with live rounds, tear gas and water cannons. IHCHR, Iraq’s highest human rights body on Monday put the total death toll of both protesters and security forces at 103, with 4,035 more injured.

Iraq’s military has admitted to use of excessive force against protesters by some officers, vowing to hold them responsible.

Iraq’s President denied that orders for violence against protesters came from Iraq’s government, calling for a judicial investigation into the matter.

The Supreme Judicial Council, Iraq’s highest judicial authority, has said that it will launch investigations into those responsible for killing protesters.

“Secretary Pompeo encouraged Prime Minister Mahdi to take immediate steps to address the protesters’ grievances by enacting reforms and tackling corruption,” Tuesday’s readout added.

In a bid to quell unrest, the Iraqi government has issued two packages of proposed social reforms since protests began in an attempt to meet the demands of anti-government protesters.

On Tuesday, Abdul-Mahdi issued a 13-point plan centering on subsidies and housing for the poor, and educational initiatives for unemployed youth. On the same day, Iraqi parliament held its first session since the crisis began to discuss the reforms.

Use of excessive force by Iraqi forces has been widely condemned by the international community, including the US Embassy in Baghdad last Wednesday. Source