Iraqi security forces shot dead 16 protesters in the southern city of Nassiriya on Thursday, medical sources said, and authorities imposed a curfew in Najaf after demonstrators burned its Iranian consulate. Authorities set up joint military-civilian “crisis cells” to try to stem unrest and a paramilitary commander vowed to use force to stop any attack against Shi’ite Muslim religious authorities. The torching of the consulate in Najaf, the southern holy city, escalated violence in Iraq after weeks of mass demonstrations that aim to bring down a government seen as corrupt and backed by Tehran. It was the strongest expression yet of the anti-Iranian sentiment of Iraqi demonstrators as the gulf widens between a largely Iran-aligned ruling elite and an increasingly desperate Iraqi majority with few opportunities and minimal state support. The inability of Iraq’s government and political class to deal with the unrest and answer protesters’ […]