The Arab Summit scheduled to take place on 29 March in Baghdad has been postponed. Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki was adamant the event would take place up until 1 March, but the event has now been cancelled at the request of several Arab foreign ministers.
A new date for the event has been set for 15 May. The government had allocated $25m in renovation projects for the summit.
“At the rate these protests are happening, most of the seats would have been empty,” says one Iraqi MP. In a statement to the press, Al-Maliki’s office maintained that the political instability in the Middle East was the reason behind his decisions and not the rising discontent in Iraq, where protests have continued throughout the country.
On 3 March Baghdad’s mayor Saber al-Issawi handed in his resignation following continued demonstrations in the capital. In the Kurdish region, protests have developed from demanding an end to corruption to calling for the resignation of the Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
“The protests in Kurdistan will pressure the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) coalition government to move more quickly on implementing reforms. Both parties stand to suffer from sustained protests, particularly if they gain momentum and galvanise more Kurds onto the streets,” says Ranj Alaaldin, senior analyst at London-based Next Century Foundation.
Following an outbreak of violence in Kirkuk over the past few days, the KRG has responded by dispatching up to 5,000 peshmergas, Kurdish military forces to the city. “Security is unlikely to be compromised by the protests, given that the KRG security forces are in full control. Violent terror groups will, however, keep a close eye on developments and hope that any upheaval presents an opportunity to penetrate an impervious security environment,” says Alaaldin.
While some violence broke out between security forces and demonstrators on 25 February, Iraq’s Day of Rage, there has not been much bloodshed.
“These protests might continue, but it won’t lead to a big change regarding the government and the alliances in Iraq. It is difficult to imagine how these protests can make radical changes since there is effectively no opposition party to the government, it is a coalition. But I think it will put pressure on the government to do more and try and please the protesters,” says Kamran Karadaghi, former chief of staff to Iraq President Jalal Talabani.
On 27 February, Al-Maliki gave his ministers 100 days to improve. “Parliament cannot really achieve anything in 100 days as the decisions of all the ministries depend on agreements between different political factions and parties, but it is a way to appease the protesters,” says Karadaghi.