Iraqis Storm Iranian Consulate

November 4, 2019

As Iran marked 40 years since the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iraqi protestors stormed the Iranian consulate in Karbala. On November 3, demonstrators scaled concrete barriers protecting the building and lobbed stones and firebombs over the wall. They accused Iran of interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs. Dozens of protestors who gathered in front of the consulate shouted, "Karbala is free, Iran out, out!" They pulled down the Iranian flag and hoisted up the Iraqi flag in its stead. Security forces opened fire on the protestors. Three were reportedly killed and another 19 were wounded.

 

Iraq's Foreign Ministry condemned the attack on the consulate and warned protestors that the security of diplomatic missions was a “red line that should not be crossed.” The following day Iran's consul general in Karbala, Mir-Masoud Hosseinian, told Iranian media that the situation was under control and conditions has “returned to normal.” 

 

The attack was part of a series of protests that began in October 2019. On October 1, more than 1,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Baghdad to protest corruption, unemployment and a lack of basic services. The protests also targeted growing Iranian influence in Iraq. “Iran controls every sector of Iraq. There are no job opportunities, no services, and yet the irony is, Iraq is a very wealthy country. Iraqis are united in wanting to see the changes that Iraq deserves. Many have been killed or injured for this cause,” said Mohammed Saad, a prominent protestor in Baghdad.

Protestors have previously targeted the offices of Iran-backed political parties and militias. On October 24, members of the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) militia opened fire on a group of protestors trying to set fire to group’s office in the city of Nasiriya. At least six protestors were killed in the clashes.  

Iraqi security forces and Iranian-backed militias reportedly used live ammunition to suppress demonstrations. As of early November, more than 250 people had been killed and hundreds more wounded.

Iran has emerged as the most influential foreign player in Iraq since U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. Iran and Iraq are Shiite-majority countries that share centuries-deep cultural and religious ties — and a 900-mile border. The Islamic Republic has used these advantages to permeate Iraq’s political, security, economic, and religious spheres. Iran’s interests in Iraq are best served if the country is stable.

Click here for information about Iran’s role in the protests.