BAGHDAD (AP) — Hundreds of protesters climbed over the blast walls surrounding Baghdad’s highly-fortified Green Zone for the first time on Saturday and stormed into parliament, carrying Iraqi flags and chanting against the government.
The breach marked a major escalation in the country’s political crisis following months of anti-government protests, sit-ins and demonstrations by supporters of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Green Zone is home to most ministries and foreign embassies and has long been the focus of al-Sadr’s criticism of the government.
Earlier Saturday, al-Sadr accused Iraqi politicians of blocking political reforms aimed at combating corruption and waste. While al-Sadr didn’t call for an escalation to the protests, shortly after his remarks, his supporters began scaling the compound’s walls. A group of young men then pulled down a section of concrete blast walls to cheers from the crowd of thousands gathered in the streets outside.
Cellphone video uploaded to social media showed dozens of young men running through the halls of parliament, chanting slogans in support of al-Sadr and calling for the government to disband.
“We are all with you (al-Sadr),” one group of men yelled as the entered the building’s main chamber.
Other videos showed a group of young men slapping an Iraqi lawmaker as he attempted to flee the crowd, and protesters mobbing another lawmaker’s motorcade inside the Green Zone. The footage appeared authentic and corresponded with The Associated Press’ reporting.
Iraqi forces tightened security across the capital, sealing off checkpoints leading to the Green Zone and halting traffic on main roads heading into the city, according to the Baghdad Operations Command.
But Iraq’s elite counterterrorism forces, who have in the past been called on to reinforce security in the capital, say they are standing down for now. Police and troops appeared to be taking no action against the protesters.
“We still view this as a demonstration,” said Sabah al-Numan, spokesman for the counterterrorism forces. “We aren’t taking any part in this as it’s not something regarding terrorism.”
He added, however, that if the unrest escalates his forces may be forced to intervene to “protect the legitimacy of the government.”
Increasingly tense protests and a series of failed reform measures have paralyzed Iraq’s government as the country struggles to fight the Islamic State group and respond to an economic crisis sparked in part by a plunge in global oil prices.
A broad-based protest movement last summer mobilized millions and pressured Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to submit a proposal to reduce the size of the Cabinet and replace political appointees with independent technocrats.
But that proposal has been stalled in the face of Iraq’s entrenched political blocs, and in recent months al-Sadr’s movement has come to monopolize the protests.
Earlier on Saturday, a bombing in a market filled with Shiite civilians in Baghdad killed at least 21 people and wounded at least 42 others, according to police and hospital officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
IS claimed the attack, saying it used a three-ton truck bomb. The extremist group regularly carries out attacks targeting the security forces and the country’s Shiite majority.
Moscow has raised concerns over the deployment of 150 US soldiers in Rumeilan, northeastern Syria, without the consent of the Syrian government, calling the move a “violation of the country’s sovereignty.”
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said: “Speaking from the position of the Foreign Ministry, we can’t help but be concerned about the fact that such actions are being carried out by the US without the consent of the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic”
“It is a violation of sovereignty,” he said. “I emphasize that a similar political assessment has already been given by official Damascus, and we express our full solidarity with it”
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the US military intervention in Syria is illegal, ultimately aimed at toppling the government of President Assad. He said the intervention without the authorization of the “legitimate” Syrian authorities was a “big mistake.”
On Monday, US President Barack Obama confirmed plans to increase American troop presence in Syria by deploying an additional 250 personnel, bringing the total to 300. He said the troops would help drive out the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group.
The move raised eyebrows as it contradicts Obama’s earlier promise not to put any “American boots on the ground in Syria.” The first time Obama broke his 2013 pledge was when he sent 50 US special operations forces to Syria last year, saying the move was a “counterterrorism” measure and not a step closer to a ground invasion.
On Wednesday, about 150 US soldiers arrived in the Kurdish-controlled town of Rumeilan in northeastern Syria, according to a report on Thursday by the SANA news agency. A source said part of the contingent immediately headed to the north of Raqqa province.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry has strongly condemned the United States for the deployment of troops on its soil, saying that the move amounts to blatant act of aggression that constitutes a dangerous intervention and a gross violation of national sovereignty
“This intervention is rejected and illegitimate, and it happened without the Syrian government’s approval”
The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, condemned the United States’ latest deployment of 250 soldiers to northern Syria, stating that this is a clear violation of Syria’s sovereignty.
Lavrov has repeatedly stressed to the U.S. that they must remain actively work with the Syrian people to defeat terrorism; however, Washington has a different opinion regarding the armed groups.
With help from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), some 150 U.S. Marines reportedly entered the Syrian province of Al-Hasakah on Thursday in order to begin their anti-ISIS operations
Sabba – To topple Assad and to assist and rebuild I.S.I.S.
Please forgive my anger and also my disillusion. How come the terrorist state of America can just invade a sovereign state without the people in the West even blinking. And it is not just Syria. The terrorist state of America has been invading countries and spreading chaos and blood all over the Global South since the end of WWII and most of us in the ‘West’ do not seem to mind that much. And not only that, but most people see this as a sign of ‘greatness’ of the West over the ‘Third World’, some even take pride in the sign of ‘irresistible power’ their country is displaying. If 10 Americans are killed anywhere in the world, most people of the west will raise in anger, take the streets and even call for revenge. But hundreds of darker-skinned people can be…
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ed note–that Putin would insert himself into this hairy business says a lot, and particularly at a time when Trump is at the center of a Judaically-inspired tornado of screeching and hollering.
I am now of the opinion that the business of Trump’s campaign is not just Donald Trump and his infamous ego, but rather that there are forces even more powerful than he in US Intelligence, the US Military and Law Enforcement who are the unseen hands pushing Trump into all of this in order to (try) prevent the election of Rubio, as they know that a Rubio presidency is the equivalent of giving Netanyahu an open road for all the war and mayhem he wants that will signal the demise of America.
Having said this, Putin and his people undoubtedly know all of this as well, and also know that one of Israel’s intended goals in all of this…
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