Iraq's powerful Hashd al-Shaabi force allied with Iran said Monday it was ready to implement government orders to prevent "a coup d'etat or a rebellion" after protests that have left more than 100 dead.
Faleh al-Fayyadh, who heads the force mostly integrated into the state, told reporters in Baghdad he wanted "the fall of corruption, not the fall of the regime."
The rallies began last Tuesday with calls to reduce youth unemployment and corruption but have spiraled to demand a total overhaul of the Iraqi political system.
The Iraqi government says more than one hundred protesters were killed and hundreds wounded as security forces reacted to the unrest.
However, Reuters reported on October 5 that government snipers on rooftops directly targeted protesters. On Monday, Iraq’s military admitted for the first time it had used “excessive force” against the protesters.
"Excessive force outside the rules of engagement was used and we have begun to hold accountable those commanding officers who carried out these wrong acts," the military said.
The Iraqi government has announced a series of reforms to create jobs, boost social welfare and oust corrupt officials but have also accused "saboteurs" of infiltrating the protests.
"We know who stands behind these protests. The plan to bring down the regime has failed," Fayyadh said.
His words echoed a statement earlier Monday by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who accused "enemies" of trying to drive a wedge between Tehran and Baghdad.
Protesters are also angry at Iran’s influence in their country and its interventions in Iraqi elections and parliamentary politics.
During the unrest people were heard shouting “Baghdad should be free, Iran should leave”.
Reporting by AFP