Anti-Iran sentiment appears to be growing in Iraq after a group of protesters set the Iranian consulate ablaze in the holy city of Karbala, southern Iraq on Sunday evening.
The consulate was targeted one day before the 40th anniversary of the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran.
A large crowd formed around the consulate as protesters hurled burning objects at its outer walls. In video footage, protesters could be heard chanting “with our blood and souls, we will redeem you Iraq.”
They then scaled the walls and replaced consulate’s Iranian flag with that of Iraq. Part of the building was then set alight.
US President Donald Trump on Monday retweeted two videos from Saudi-funded newspapers that showed footage of the event.
The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) reported three dead and 12 injured in clashes with security forces.
Talib, 28, was one of the protesters outside the consulate. He told Rudaw English that the aim was to send a message to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that “Iraqis want to decide on their fate by themselves, and not by Tehran.”
“We want a pure Iraqi government that does not include the current politicians and leaders, because they are all under the command of Tehran,” Talib said.
“We want to decide on our prime minister or president not Tehran or Washington,” he added.
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry condemned the attack in a Monday tweet.
“The foreign ministry condemns the recent attack on the consulate of the Islamic Republic of Iran in holy Karbala province.Any attacks on the consulates and embassies in Iraq are a ‘red line’ for us,” the statement reads.
They also stated that such attacks on the Iranian consulate will not affect the Iraqi-Iranian relations.
There has been no response from Iran so far.
The event follows tweets by Khamenei that suggested the protests were the product of a foreign conspiracy.
On Wednesday, Khameini warned both Iraq and Lebanon that “insecurity and turmoil” had been created by the “US, the Zionist regime, some western countries, and the money of some reactionary countries.”
He also warned both countries that “the biggest damage enemies can inflict on a country is to deprive them of security, as they are doing today in some countries in the region.”
However, protesters on Iraq’s streets are wary of Iranian influence in their country, accusing Iran of interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs.
Anti-Iran banners have been a regular fixture in the countrywide protests.
Protesters in Tahrir square in Baghdad have been seen burning the Iranian flag, while in Babil protesters painted the flag on the ground before stomping on it.
Video footage circulated on Telegram also showed protesters in Diwaniya province tearing and hitting images of Ayatollah Khomenei, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The increase in anti-Iran slogans in Iraq during the protests has pushed the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, also known as Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic) to revise its views on the nationwide protests in Iraq.
Iranian-backed paramilitias and politicians in Iraq also labelled the protests as a foreign conspiracy that aim to destabilize the country.
Iraqis have protested a lack of services, corruption, and unemployment for years.
However, burgeoning protests led by the country’s youth were met with deadly force from Iraqi security forces, killing over 100 people in a week of protest beginning October 1. Protests then entered a brief hiatus period, due to the Arbaeen pilgrimage undertaken by Iraq’s Shiite Muslims.
A second round of protests began on October 25. Iraqi demands grew to include a full overthrow of the government, constitutional amendments, and a new electoral law, among other demands for deep-rooted, systematic change.
According to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, at least 257 people have been killed, and more than 10,000 wounded, since protests began.
Source » rudaw