Tehran says it “strongly condemns” a weekend attack on the Iranian Consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala following the killing of a prominent activist.
A “letter of protest” has been handed over to the Iraqi Embassy in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters on May 10.
"It is the international duty of the Iraqi government to protect diplomatic facilities in the country," Khatibzadeh said, adding that this duty had not met in Karbala on May 9.
That day, dozens of protesters gathered outside the consulate, setting fire to the perimeter wall, a gate, and trailers outside, amid anger over the killing of Ehab Wazni by unknown assailants overnight on May 8 -- the latest in a series of attacks on Iraqi activists that protesters blame on pro-Iranian militias.
Security forces reportedly fired live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators gathered at the consulate, leaving at least 10 people wounded.
Wazni was an organizer of anti-government protests that shook Iraq in October 2019. He was also an outspoken anti-corruption activist, as well as an opponent of the influence of Iran-linked militia and Tehran’s influence in Iraq.
Aside from Karbala, his assassination sparked protests elsewhere in the predominately Shi’ite south of Iraq, including in Basra, Nasiriyah, and Najaf.
The popular protests that erupted in October 2019 and lasted for months demanded a complete overhaul of the country’s political structure, an end to endemic corruption, and improved public services. Since the coronavirus pandemic, the protest movement has abated.
The cross-sectarian protest movement also directed its frustration at neighboring Iran and the powerful Iraqi Shi’ite militias tied to it, with protesters attacking the Iranian consulates in Najaf and Karbala.
Iran and Iraq have had close relations since the toppling of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.