Violence in Iraq intensified in Iraq protests as the government allowed security forces to open fire on protesters, killing 8 on Monday and at least 5 more demonstrators on Tuesday.
More than 260 Iraqis have been killed in demonstrations since the start of October against a government they see as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests, above all Iran.
Most of those deaths took place during the first week of the demonstrations, when snipers shot on crowds from Baghdad rooftops. But after the government appeared to have curbed the use of some deadly tactics, the protests swelled rapidly over the past ten days.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday that Tehran has asked Baghdad for more protection for Iranian buildings and facilities. Sunday night protesters in Karbala attacked the Iranian consulate, where security forces opened fire, killing up to five people.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other officials have portrayed mass protests both in Iraq and Lebanon to “foreign intrigues”, and news agencies have reported the presence of top Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad to give “advice” to Iraqi security forces.
The new violence began a day after Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi appealed to protesters to suspend their movement, which he said had achieved its goals and was hurting the economy.
He has said he is willing to resign if politicians agree on a replacement, and has promised a number of reforms. But protesters say that is not enough and the entire political class needs to go.
Protesters blame a political system that shares power among sectarian parties, making corruption entrenched. Abdul Mahdi, in power for a year, enjoys the support of powerful Iran-backed political parties allied to armed militia.
A government report said nearly 150 people were killed in the first week of the unrest in early October, 70% from bullets to the head. Since then, security forces mainly used tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades to repel protesters.