Iraq president vows early polls as protesters demand more

Maya Gebeily
1 / 4

Iraqi protesters say a pledge by their president to call early elections falls short of their demand for an overhaul of the political leadership

Iraqi protesters say a pledge by their president to call early elections falls short of their demand for an overhaul of the political leadership (AFP Photo/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)

Baghdad (AFP) - Iraq's president vowed on Thursday to hold early elections in response to a month of deadly protests, but demonstrators said the move fell far short of their demands for a political overhaul.

In his first televised address in weeks, President Barham Saleh said the country's embattled Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi was ready to step down, but there was so far no one to take his place.

"The prime minister expressed his willingness to submit his resignation, asking the political parties to reach an agreement on an acceptable alternative," said Saleh.

He pledged to hold early elections as soon as a new voting law and oversight commission was agreed, but his speech did not appear to impress demonstrators.

"Barham's speech is just an opiate for the masses," said Haydar Kazem, 49.

"Abdel Mahdi's resignation isn't a solution, it's part of the solution. The problem is with the ruling parties, not with Abdel Mahdi."

Iraq's leaders have scrambled to respond to massive protests that erupted on October 1 over unemployment and corruption, ballooning into demands for "the downfall of the regime".

Saleh has held closed-door talks with top figures over Abdel Mahdi's ouster and parliament has called on the premier to come in for questioning.

Abdel Mahdi has so far resisted, saying he would only appear if the session was aired on television.

Lawmakers met Thursday for a fourth consecutive day and agreed to broadcast any session live, with Saeroon MPs chanting: "Adel must come! Adel must come!"

- UN warns against 'inaction' -

Abdel Mahdi, 77, came to power a year ago through a tenuous partnership between populist cleric Moqtada Sadr and paramilitary leader Hadi al-Ameri.

The kingmakers' alliance has frayed in recent months, as Sadr threw his weight behind the protests while Ameri and his allies backed the government.

A rapprochement built on Abdel Mahdi's ouster appeared close on Tuesday night, but disagreements over who could replace him seemed to have slowed down the process.

The United Nations' top representative in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, called for a national dialogue to draw a roadmap out of the crisis.

"Today Iraq stands at a crossroads. Progress through dialogue, or divisive inaction," she said.

"Full access to all information, facts and figures will prove key. Window dressing will only feed anger and resentment."

Since the US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq's political system has been gripped by clientelism, corruption and sectarianism.

Getting a job in government, the country's biggest employer, is often secured with bribes or connections.

One in five Iraqis live below the poverty line and youth unemployment stands at 25 percent, despite the vast oil wealth of OPEC's second-largest crude producer.

That inequality has been a rallying cry for the protests.

"Because of these politicians, there are now two classes in Iraq: those with huge salaries and those killed demanding their rights," said Sabah Kazem, a protester in the southern city of Nasiriyah.

- 'Skull-piercing' grenades -

Nearby, Diwaniyah saw its largest rallies yet: students, teachers, farmers and health workers hit the streets as government offices remained closed.

In Basra, demonstrators cut off a main road leading to the Umm Qasr port -- one of the main conduits food and other imports into Iraq -- authorities said.

The rallies are unique in Iraq's recent history for their fury at the entire leadership, even normally revered clerics.

"We don't want them, so let them leave. We also don't want the clerics -- they have no business in politics," said Hoda, a 59-year-old in a headscarf and sunglasses protesting in Baghdad.

Demonstrators packed onto two bridges leading to the capital's Green Zone, where government buildings and foreign embassies are based, setting up barricades to face off against riot police trying to hold them off with tear gas.

Late on Thursday, paramilitary fighters of the Hashed al-Shaabi, which had backed the government, held their own demonstration near Tahrir.

At least 257 people have died and 10,000 have been wounded since protests broke out on October 1, with 100 people losing their lives in the last week, the Iraqi Human Rights Commission said.

Amnesty International said it had documented the "unprecedented" use of military-grade tear gas canisters that were directly shot protesters and "pierced" their heads or chest.

It found at least five protesters had died in as many days from the "horrific" weapon and urged an immediate halt to their use.

  • Police: Mom accused of killing her 3 kids said she smothered them while singing
    USA TODAY

    Police: Mom accused of killing her 3 kids said she smothered them while singing

    PHOENIX – The 22-year-old mother accused of killing her three children in Phoenix sang to her children as she smothered them to death, according to court records. Rachel Henry was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder Monday after she admitted to killing her three children under the age of 4, police said. Police initially said her son was 3 years old and her daughters were 2 years old and 7 months old, but a probable cause document released Tuesday night says the girls were 1 year old and 7 months old.

  • Mitch McConnell: ruthless operator determined to triumph for Trump
    The Guardian

    Mitch McConnell: ruthless operator determined to triumph for Trump

    For all the hidden pitfalls that a Senate impeachment trial might hold for Donald Trump, he has so far enjoyed the steady support of elected Republicans, and in particular the chamber's most powerful Republican, Mitch McConnell. As one of the most capable – and ruthless – tacticians in the history of the US Senate, McConnell, the political infighter who became legendary for frustrating the agenda of Barack Obama and monkey-wrenching a supreme court nomination, looks like the ideal figure for Trump to have in charge at this most tenuous moment.

  • Hurricane Rudy Strikes Back: Giuliani Hints At Tapes Exposing Parnas 'Lies'
    The National Interest

    Hurricane Rudy Strikes Back: Giuliani Hints At Tapes Exposing Parnas 'Lies'

    Rudy Giuliani on Monday accused his former associate, Lev Parnas, of telling multiple lies during a media tour last week, including about whether Attorney General William Barr was aware of the Trump lawyer's activities related to Ukraine. Giuliani was responding to Parnas's claims in interviews with CNN and MSNBC last week that it was “impossible” that Barr was unaware that Parnas worked closely with Giuliani in 2019 to collect and disseminate information related to Ukraine. Parnas helped Giuliani arrange interviews with former Ukrainian prosecutors regarding Joe and Hunter Biden.

  • Associated Press

    Advocates: Honduran mother, children deported to Guatemala

    A Honduran mother and her two children who had been hospitalized have been deported to Guatemala under a Trump administration policy of sending some people seeking asylum in the U.S. to third countries, advocates for the mother said Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez did not rule on their request prior to Tuesday, the day the government had said it intended to remove the mother and her two children, ages 1 and 6, under a plan to send families to different countries so they can seek asylum elsewhere. The 1-year-old was diagnosed with the flu, while the 6-year-old had diarrhea and a fever, according to Dr. Amy Cohen, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group Every Last One.

  • Malaysia returns thousands of tons of trash to wealthy countries
    CBS News

    Malaysia returns thousands of tons of trash to wealthy countries

    Malaysia will no longer allow other countries to dump their plastic waste on its land. The country has successfully returned 150 containers of plastic waste to 13 mostly wealthy nations since the end of last year. On Monday, Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeo Bee Yin said the country will send another 110 containers of trash back to its origin countries by the middle of 2020.

  • Taiwan calls on China to share 'correct' virus information
    Reuters

    Taiwan calls on China to share 'correct' virus information

    Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen called on China on Wednesday to share "correct" information about a new coronavirus and for the World Health Organisation (WHO) not to exclude Taiwan from collaboration on the outbreak for political reasons. Authorities have confirmed more than 400 cases of the virus in China, most of them in the central city of Wuhan where the virus first appeared at the end of 2019. The virus, which health officials have said can be passed from person to person, has spread to cities including Beijing and Shanghai, with cases have been confirmed in Thailand, South Korea, Japan, as well as Taiwan.

  • Intelligence officials: New ISIS leader is one of its founding members
    The Week

    Intelligence officials: New ISIS leader is one of its founding members

    The Islamic State's new leader is Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi, one of the terrorist organization's founding members, intelligence officials told The Guardian. Last October, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a raid in Syria, and officials said Salbi replaced him just hours after his death. Born to an Iraqi Turkmen family, Salbi has a background as an Islamic scholar, and came up with the ISIS religious rulings authorizing the enslavement of Iraq's Yazidi minority.

  • Amanda Knox posts selfie in old prison uniform as her 'something old' to prepare for wedding
    The Independent

    Amanda Knox posts selfie in old prison uniform as her 'something old' to prepare for wedding

    With just 40 days left until her wedding, like many a bride-to-be, Amanda Knox has a long to-do list to get through before the big day. Ms Knox revealed a unique "something old" in a post on Instagram as she knuckles down to get through the tasks at hand – her old uniform from her time in an Italian prison. It has been nine years since Ms Knox left prison where she served just under four years after being convicted for the 2007 murder of 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher.

  • Russia Tightens Control Over Chinese Border on Coronavirus Fears
    Bloomberg

    Russia Tightens Control Over Chinese Border on Coronavirus Fears

    Russian authorities strengthened controls at border crossings with China to prevent a deadly strain of coronavirus from being brought into the country, the state-run RIA Novosti news service reported, citing acting Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova. The mysterious virus has caused at least six deaths and infected a number of medical workers in China, a sign the illness can be passed from person to person. China raised the number of confirmed cases to 291 on Tuesday and its National Health Commission has warned there's a risk of the virus spreading further.

  • 2 inmates were killed Monday night at an understaffed Mississippi prison
    Yahoo News Video

    2 inmates were killed Monday night at an understaffed Mississippi prison

    Two inmates were killed Monday night at an understaffed Mississippi prison that has been shaken by other deadly violence in recent weeks. The state Department of Corrections confirmed the deaths Tuesday but did not immediately release the names of the latest inmates killed at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. The department said it is investigating the deaths.

  • Climate change threatens America's cities. We need to act now to protect them.
    USA TODAY Opinion

    Climate change threatens America's cities. We need to act now to protect them.

    They raised $400 million for a Miami Forever Bond that is pioneering a new approach to climate adaptation. There is only so much a city — even as the Greater Miami Area, with its more than 6 million residents — can do to address these multiple challenges. The rise in sea levels is accelerating.

  • Dutch farm dad 'beat bad spirits out of kids'
    AFP

    Dutch farm dad 'beat bad spirits out of kids'

    A Dutchman isolated six of his children in a remote farmhouse from birth and beat them to drive out "bad spirits," prosecutors told a court on Tuesday. Gerrit Jan van D., 67, subjected the youngsters who were found on the farm in the village of Ruinerwold in October to "very serious physical punishment" when he thought they had been made "unclean". One child was tied up by his hands and feet as punishment, while another child was forced to spend an entire summer in a doghouse at the farm in northern Drenthe province, prosecutors said.

  • Forget North Korea or Pakistan: This U.S. Ally Has a Nuclear Arsenal That Could Kill Billions
    The National Interest

    Forget North Korea or Pakistan: This U.S. Ally Has a Nuclear Arsenal That Could Kill Billions

    The United Kingdom maintains a fleet of four ballistic missile submarines with the ability to devastate even the largest of countries. This fleet came into being after its ally, the United States, canceled a key weapon system that would have been the cornerstone of London's nuclear arsenal. Fifty years later, the UK's missile submarine force is the sole custodian of the country's nuclear weapons, providing a constant deterrent against nuclear attack.

  • You Should Get an Electric Fireplace
    Architectural Digest

    You Should Get an Electric Fireplace

    Who couldn't use a little more ambiance? Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest

  • 'I stayed alive to tell' - Auschwitz's dwindling survivors recount horrors of Nazi death camp
    Reuters

    'I stayed alive to tell' - Auschwitz's dwindling survivors recount horrors of Nazi death camp

    A strip of skin tattooed with the Auschwitz death camp number 99288 sits in a silver frame on a shelf in Avraham Harshalom's living room. As the 75th anniversary of the camp's liberation on Jan 27, 1945, nears, Harshalom, 95, is very clear about why he kept it. Harshalom is one of some 200,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel today.

  • USA TODAY

    It's so cold in Florida that Disney World water park and other Orlando parks are closing

    Heads up if you're vacationing in Florida this chilly week: Several water parks in Florida are closing due to cold temperatures in the Sunshine State. Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort and Aquatica Orlando have shut down, according to the parks' respective social media platforms. Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park is also closed.

  • 'África's richest woman' out of Davos well before report
    Associated Press

    'África's richest woman' out of Davos well before report

    The rapidly changing circumstances for Isabel dos Santos, widely known as “Africa's richest woman,” is evident by her absence at the the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Instead of hobnobbing with world leaders in Davos, she is confronted with calls for her to be investigated for criminal corruption and is hotly defending herself on Twitter. Forum organizers said the participation of dos Santos, daughter of longtime Angolan strongman Jose Eduardo dos Santos, at the forum's annual gathering in Davos was cancelled this month, well before an investigation alleged that she bilked her country of more than $1 billion through unscrupulous dealings.

  • Russia admits its deadly Zircon hypersonic missile is suffering from 'childhood diseases'
    Business Insider

    Russia admits its deadly Zircon hypersonic missile is suffering from 'childhood diseases'

    Associated Press Russia's deadly Zircon hypersonic missile is apparently suffering from unspecified "childhood diseases," the Russian Navy's top admiral revealed. Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov told RIA Novosti that the weapon is likely still years away from entering service. In February of last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted that the developmental missile can hit speeds up to Mach 9 and eliminate targets up to 620 miles away.

  • Just as Australia's deadly fires begin to subside, it's being hit with more apocalyptic weather. Videos show enormous dust storms and golf-ball-sized hail battering cars and buildings
    INSIDER

    Just as Australia's deadly fires begin to subside, it's being hit with more apocalyptic weather. Videos show enormous dust storms and golf-ball-sized hail battering cars and buildings

    Reuters;YouTube/Guardian Severe weather conditions gripped Australia on Sunday and Monday, with an enormous dust storm hitting New South Wales, and golf ball-sized hail stones battering cars and buildings in Canberra. The apocalyptic scenes took over southeastern Australia, the region most affected by the ongoing bushfires. The rainfall that came as part of the severe weather conditions helped relieve some parts of the country affected by the bushfires, but caused damage in other ways, the BBC reported.Reuters/Georgia Redmayne In Canberra, the country's capital, giant hailstones destroyed buildings and cars on Monday afternoon local time, CNN and The Guardian reported.

  • Report: Several Senate Democrats are talking about trading the testimony of Hunter Biden for John Bolton
    The Week

    Report: Several Senate Democrats are talking about trading the testimony of Hunter Biden for John Bolton

    Some Democratic senators are privately discussing what would happen if they told Republicans that former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden should testify in President Trump's impeachment trial — so long as former National Security Adviser John Bolton does, too. Multiple Democratic officials told The Washington Post that lawmakers are discussing trading Bolton for Biden, as they feel having Bolton testify in the trial is that important. The impeachment charges allege that Trump froze approved military aid and withheld a meeting from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a way to pressure Zelensky into announcing an investigation into the Bidens.

  • AOC Compares Baltimore Riots to Peaceful Richmond Gun-Rights Demonstration
    National Review

    AOC Compares Baltimore Riots to Peaceful Richmond Gun-Rights Demonstration

    Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) on Monday contrasted the annual gun rights rally in Richmond, Va. with the riots after the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray and protests following the killing of Eric Garner by New York police. “When we go out and march for the dignity…of the lives of people like Freddie Gray and Eric Garner, the whole place is surrounded by police in riot gear without a gun in sight [among protesters],” Ocasio-Cortez said at a Monday event.

  • Why Iran Should Fear Israel's Tricked Out F-15 Fighter
    The National Interest

    Why Iran Should Fear Israel's Tricked Out F-15 Fighter

    One of the fighter jets most associated with Israel is the F-15 Eagle. The first F-15 touched down in Israel in 1976 and the jet has served continuously—and without defeat—since. In 1998, the Israeli Air Force introduced a new version of the jet, one designed for air-to-air and air-to-ground combat.

  • Signs of life at 'no-man's land' around Philippine volcano
    AFP

    Signs of life at 'no-man's land' around Philippine volcano

    A desolate landscape of ash dunes and bare trees left by the eruption of the Philippines' Taal volcano lay in contrast with a few signs of life at ground zero of the disaster on Tuesday. The island site was buried by massive deposits of ash when Taal erupted last week and remains under a mandatory evacuation order due to a feared bigger blast. Yet about a dozen white cows milled near dust-blanketed homes, and several brightly coloured boats were docked at the shore on Tuesday, according to an AFP reporter taken on a rare military flight around the area.

  • Don't shun China, urges Merkel at American prize ceremony
    Reuters

    Don't shun China, urges Merkel at American prize ceremony

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday urged Western global powers to include China in their multilateral system and treat Beijing equally rather than freeze it out and risk slipping into a Cold War-style bipolar order. Speaking after receiving a prize at the American Academy in Berlin, attended by former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and John Kerry, Merkel said China's economic success posed challenges. "Of course we also have to build up fairness, of course we have to practise multilateralism such that the rules apply to everyone," she said.

  • Feds: White supremacists hoped rally would start civil war
    Yahoo News Video

    Feds: White supremacists hoped rally would start civil war

    A hidden camera captured members of a white supremacist group expressing hope that violence at a gun rights rally in Virginia this week could start a civil war, federal prosecutors said in a court filing Tuesday.