The Trump administration issued sanctions on Friday against three Iraqi militia, accusing them of killing dozens of innocent civilians in Baghdad’s Khilani Square, who were protesting economic conditions and foreign interference in the country.
Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of state supported the protesters saying in a statement that “The Iraqi people want their country back. They are calling for genuine reform and accountability and for trustworthy leaders who will put Iraq’s national interests first”.
The US sanctioned Qais al-Khazali, leader of Iran-backed Shia militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq and his brother, Laith al-Khazali, who are believed to receive around $2 million in weapons and cash each month from Iran, along with Husayn Falih ‘Aziz al-Lami, member of Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq and linked to Quds Force, Iran’s elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
The Iraqi millionaire businessman Khamis Farhan al-Khanjar al-Issawi, was also designated for sanctions, accused of bribing government officials.
“Iraqis have played a step and bloody price” because of the Iranian regime’s involvement in the country, Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker said. The US official also acknowledged that the penalties restricting travel to the US and freezing American held-assets were symbolic, adding that the US are not done with the sanctions and that it is an “ongoing process”.
More than 400 protesters have been killed since the beginning of the demonstrations in October in Baghdad, calling for an end to political corruption, high unemployment, inadequate public services, and Iran’s interference in the running of the state.
Another 19,136 people have been injured in the demonstrations, according to the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq.
Increasing pressure from young Iraqis who took the streets across the country asking for the government’s promised reforms, led to the resignation of the PM Adel Abdul Mahdi, the previous week.