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US diplomat: Iraqi PM's resignation 'inevitable' amid deadly protests

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In the wake of escalating civil unrest and a wave of violent protests across Iraq, the American ambassador to the country has warned that the resignation of the prime minister may be imminent.

Matthew Tueller, a career diplomat who took over the Baghdad mission in June, told U.S. military leaders on Sunday that it "appears inevitable" that Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi would resign in the face of deadly protests and a call from one of the country's most powerful clerics that the government resign and hold new elections under U.N. supervision.

"Through this move, we assess Moqtada al-Sadr is seeking to take advantage of this crisis by giving demonstrators a dramatic response to their anger against the government and strengthening his own hand," Tueller wrote in a classified email sent to U.S. military leaders on Saturday morning.

"Subsequently former PM Haider al-Abadi also issued a call for early elections. With these drastic developments the resignation of Adil Abdul-Mahdi by as early as today appears inevitable and Iraq's government will enter unchartered [sic] and fraught political territory."

"It is unclear if these moves will slow down the protests or accompanying violence," Tueller concluded.

However, U.S. military leaders in the region remain skeptical of whether Abdul-Mahdi will actually resign or give in to protester's demands, an American military official told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive discussions.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have flooded the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere across the country over the past week to protest government corruption, widespread unemployment, and a lack of basic services and infrastructure, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

Iraqi security forces have responded to the protests with force, leaving more than 100 people dead and injuring as many as 6,000.

Abdul-Mahdi, who has been in office for less than a year, had pledged that he would fix unemployment and combat rampant government corruption, but has yet to make good on those promises, The Washington Post reported Friday.

"Mahdi's resignation may not be enough," Jennifer Cafarella, research director with The Institute for the Study of War, told Task & Purpose. "Muqtada al Sadr has called for the resignation of the entire council of representatives and some of the protesters have gone even farther and called for a complete overthrow of the government."

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