Who is Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, the Man Behind Iraq’s Deadly Protests?

Dane Larsen | @dblarsen12

Amidst the Impeachment Inquiry initiated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the vicious fight for the Democratic Nomination, a deadly protest has emerged in Iraq regarding the actions of the government against Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi. A humanitarian disaster is occurring in Iraq due to the government’s handling of anti-corruption protests.

Who Is Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi?

Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi served as the Lieutenant General of Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service, which was created in 2003. He is the man who helped defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in key battles against the caliphate. The U.S.-Iraqi coalition, “The Golden Division”, has earned al-Saadi praise for destroying ISIS and other groups.

al-Saadi recently visited the United States Embassy in Baghdad in an act to receive his annual work visa. He stated that his objective was to obtain said visa because of a scheduled speech at Harvard about terrorism, as he had done one year prior. The Iraqi government caught word of this and immediately jumped to conclusions about an under-the-table deal between the United States military and the Iraqi CTS. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi feared the removal of himself from office, and with the help of CTS General Talib Shanghati, they were able to remove al-Saadi from a position of power.

The actions of the 10th most corrupt country in the world (based on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index) led to the demotion of Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi from his position in the CTS. He was transferred to the Ministry of Defense where he would be given little to no power.

Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi disavowed such acts publicly, but most reports were silenced by agencies under PM Adel Abdul Mahdi. The people of Iraq took to the streets to express their disapproval. al-Saadi still is a very popular figure for contributing to the downfall of ISIL.

The Iraqi People Take to the Streets

Directly following the forced resignation of al-Saadi, the Iraqi people rallied behind his cause. The people of Iraq, both Sunnis and Shiite, have joined together in their desire to eradicate corruption within their government. A substantial build-up of distrust for the government and discontent for personal and national economic conditions climaxed on October 1st.

With the first case of organized citizen protests, Iraqi revolutionaries erupted in Baghdad, Mosul, Abadan, and other large cities within the nation. After multiple deaths on the first day, the Iraqi Prime Minister put into place a curfew to maintain order and protect protesters from “infiltrators”. The protestors continued to take to the streets in the middle of the night, leading to more bloodshed.

On October 4th, the violence had further escalated; after the Iraq Dollar Bond fell below 1.2 cents, the death toll rose to 44. Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar had issued travel bans as the Iraqis asked for assistance from foreign governments. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov landed in Baghdad to discuss the situation between the United States and Iran in the Gulf Region and to strengthen their alliance. Lavrov and Abdul Mahd neglected to mention the Iraqi revolts. United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a phone call with Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, in which the terror was downplayed to a great extent.

“The Prime Minister reviewed developments in the security situation and the return to normal life after the curfew was lifted, and confirmed that security forces had resumed control and stability had been restored,” Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State

An emergency Parliament session was boycotted. The most recent reports estimate the damage to the city of Baghdad as unimaginable, with buildings collapsing, over 100 civilian deaths, and over 1,000 injuries. Despite the Iraqi President Barham Salih condemnation of attacks, the military continues to fire on civilians.

Iraq’s Military Leads Recent Developments

Officials from the UN are “begging for the violence to stop.” Religious leaders are pleading for the government to provide security in the name of Islam. The top Shia leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is a large backer of the protests, begging the government to concede to the people’s demands “before it is too late”. He went on to criticize everyone responsible by saying, “Lawmakers hold the biggest responsibility for what is happening”.

While the Iraqi military admitted to “excessive force” on October 7th, the government has continued its crackdown of the protests. As of October 8th, General Hassan Karami of the Iranian military ordered a pack of 7,500 troops to the country, mostly to be centered in Baghdad. The motive of said deployment is unknown.

Furthermore, militias are taking advantage of the chaos within Iraq. Pro-Iranian groups dispatched by the Iraqi government are responsible for “firing at open roads of protestors”, often aiming at the head or heart. The main group known at the time of reporting is Hashd al-Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Units, with member numbers up to 85,000.

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