Demonstrators protest lack of government services in southern Iraq

Demonstrators protest lack of government services in southern Iraq

Ongoing violent protests in southern Iraq, spurred by electricity shortages and government corruption, could intensify today after Friday prayers. Starting

People shout slogans during a protest near the main provincial government building in Basra

Photo: Reuters/Essam al-Sudani

Ongoing violent protests in southern Iraq, spurred by electricity shortages and government corruption, could intensify today after Friday prayers.

Starting on July 7, the unrest has centred on the oil-producing city of Basra, so far killing eight and injuring hundreds. In recent weeks, demonstrations have spread to other southern cities in Iraq’s Shia heartland.

The demonstrations are largely attributed to dissatisfaction over the government’s poor delivery of services. Indeed, there is increasing resentment at Iran’s influence in the country, which is perceived as foreign meddling rather than concentrating on supplying efficient services. Such frustration is particularly directed at the involvement of Iran Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah in post-election negotiations.

The protests are heaping pressure on caretaker incumbent PM Haider al-Abadi, while a new government is yet to be formed. To date, a loose coalition of Sadr’s anti-foreigner nationalists, PM Abadi’s pro-foreigner moderates, and two pro-Iranian blocs led by Hadi al-Amiri and former PM Nouri al-Maliki, are the closest to forming a coalition after the inconclusive May 12 election.

Expect al-Sadr’s loose alliance with the pro-Iranian parties to be majorly tested. If violence continues, do not discount al-Sadr breaking off coalition formation.

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