About six months after the Iraqi government declared victory over the organization of the Islamic state after three years of bloody battles on one-third of the country’s territory under its control, social problems returned to top priority that the protests spread over the southern provinces starting from Basra, the oil city . . . Every summer, with temperatures rising above 50 degrees Celsius, Iraqis used to launch demonstrations protesting poor services, especially electricity. But this year’s demonstrations were different and growing larger and bigger as a rolling snowball in the midst of a burning summer heat. The expansion of the protests, which started from Basra to other southern provinces such as Maysan, Diwaniyah, Najaf and others, prompted the government to deploy more security forces into the street to stop the flow of demonstrators.
Fennar Haddad , a researcher at the Middle East Institute at the University of Singapore said “With the end of the war against Da’ash, the failures of the Iraqi political classes in all aspects of governance and economic management have come back to the fore “Starting from a major power outage , water shortages , lack of services, and the provision of work opportunities , demands that made thousands to shout for 10 days: “Where is the government?” Haddad adds, “summer demands are a regular annual occurrence” in a country where summer temperatures reach 50 degrees Celsius.
Although the protesters’ claims are still limited to the service side, there is fear among many political and religious parties that such claims will come out of that range to shift to the political side. There were many question marks about the protests in Iraq, which entered its second week, where some spoke of the presence of internal and external parties seeking to take advantage of the repercussions of angry demonstrations on the spread of corruption and the absence of services and lack of jobs.
In the opinion of observers to the Iraqi issue that there are several parties entered the line of protest movement, taking advantage of the participation of those affected of the people of these cities, which suffer from the absence of services and some social grievances. They said that some “thieves and deviant ” carried out acts of thefts and sabotage of public property, and that the conflict of dominant parties reflected on the demonstrations, as many of the party headquarters were burned, warning of a sharp Shiite-Shiite conflict soon. In addition to the parties seeking to cover the “fraud” of the parliamentary elections carried out in the last May.
According to Iraqi observers, the factor of regional neighbor was strongly present in the community protest movement, apparently as a response to Washington’s threat to curtail Iran’s influence in southern Iraq so Tehran and other regional parties started to take the line of protest.
The followers of the Iraqi issue don’t see that the protest movement will continue for a long time, despite the fact that it has received wide popular acceptance. It will stop when some political compromises are achieved in light of regional and international pressure to accelerate the formation of the government. In addition, the government does not have tools for change on the ground and these demonstrations will continue to spin in a vicious circle, according to what they see.
It is useful to note here that the beginnings of the protest movement were spontaneous and several factors contributed to its expansion, as the spark started with a group of unemployed youth in front of a foreign oil companies in Basra. The repression of protesters and the government’s failure to deal with them have widened it , but there are now attempts to invest these demonstrations by the political class, “even though they were basically against them.”
Observers believe that this movement is an opportunity to stabilize the election results and to hint at fears that the country is sliding into chaos. Others see it as an opportunity to stabilize the presence of the popular crowd as a protector of the state and to portray the security forces as “helpless.” Iran, in the eyes of many protesters, is accused of weakening the Iraqi state and negatively impacting the energy portfolio by cutting off electricity supplies to the neighboring provinces of Basra and Diyala, as well as drug trafficking and flooding the Iraqi market with it. The reaction of the Iraqi street and its discontent over Iranian influence can be seen by the burning of Khomeni’s images for the first time in southern Iraq since 2003.
Despite calls by some to expand the protests to the northern and western provinces, observers of the Iraqi issue do not expect a large response to this. They ruled out that these demonstrations to move to the Sunni provinces in any way, memories of the demonstrations that emerged spontaneously in 2013 and 2014 are present in mind, before being exploited by some organs and turn into a relapse in the sense of the word. The emergence of any protest movement in these provinces now make them vulnerable to the charge of being “ISIS”, as well as the security situation there does not allow this, as many outskirts and the Valley of Mosul and Samarra and Ramadi Kirkuk and others are still witnessing attacks targeting the security forces .
They assert that Iran has tried to invest the crisis by directing some of the demonstrators towards oil companies, to pressure the world oil markets and cause prices to rise, in response to US sanctions and Trump’s call for OPEC to increase production to reduce prices. And are surprised by the absence of the US role in media, as the US Embassy in Baghdad did not comment in a manner consistent with the size of what is happening.
Observers confirm that Haidar al-Abadi was subjected to “injustice” in these protests, arguing that he needs more time after the liberation of the country to carry out his promise to fight corruption, which he considered “an extension of ISIS.” He has taken a series of huge decisions, including the disbursement of nearly $ 3 billion for projects in Basra, for jobs, housing, desalination projects and electricity.
Perhaps the most serious thing that Iraq has witnessed in recent years is the disruption of the remaining social fabric of the country. At the core of this is the control of sectarian parties in all aspects of life and its imposition of values that have nothing to do with all that is civilized in this world. There is no longer a place in Iraq for a head of a family who wants to raise his children properly. There is no longer a future for the non-corrupt who work for religious parties or for the hypocrites who have accepted that their country be subject to Iran.
Perhaps the most serious thing that Iraq is going through is two things. The first is the failure of the Kurds, in the light of the disastrous results of the decision to embark on the referendum on independence last September, to establish a region that is a successful example of what Iraq could be in the future.
The second is Iran’s use of Iraq in a process to influence the world’s oil supply. From this point of view, it is not surprising that the statements of Iraqi officials about the existence of “infiltrating elements” are working to escalate the situation aimed at referring to elements belonging to Iran. What can not be ignored is that Iran is currently at a difficult stage, with fears of further US sanctions focusing on exporting its oil.
It is difficult to rule out the assumption that Iran, which threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if it is prevented from exporting its oil, wants to send a message on the eve of the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit. The message is that if Iran is not able to close the Strait of Hormuz, it can use Iraqis to disrupt the export of Iraqi oil. This will have a significant impact on the global market and on the price of a barrel of oil.
Iraqi Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies