Protests against high unemployment, poor government services and corruption that began in Iraq's southern oil hub of Basra have spread to several other cities, including Najaf, Amara, Nasiriya and even Baghdad. At least three have been killed since the protests erupted a week ago. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi arrived in Barsa to try to calm the situation July 13, flying straight into the city from the NATO summit in Brussels. But the next day he convened a meeting of Iraq's National Security Council, where the decision was taken to cut Internet access in Basra and mobilize army troops to the city. After the meeting he issued a statement accusing "infiltrators" of exploiting "peaceful protests to attack public and private property." He warned: "Our forces will take all the necessary measures to counter those people." Units from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service and the Army’s Ninth Division have arrived in Basra.
Many of the protesters are taking aim at Abadi's perceived subservience to Iran. In Najaf, thousands filled the streets, calling for the destruction of the local headquarters of Abadi's Dawa Party. Security forces responded by cutting off electricity to the city, and imposing a crufew. In Nasiriya, Dhi Qar governorate, protestors chanted, "Iran, Iran, we don't want you anymore, Dhi Qar will not shut up anymore!" (Middle East Eye, Kurdistan24, Kurdistan24)
Basra protests escalate
Protesters set fire to Iranian consulate in Basra and briefly took workers hostage at a nearby oilfield, as the uprising in the city spreads—in defiance of a government-ordered curfew. Since protests erupted in July, popular anger has been further fuelled by pollution of the city's water supply that left 30,000 people hospitalized. (Al Jazeera, Reuters)