Baghdad’s Political Disputes Reverberate in Basra

Wednesday, 12 September, 2018 - 07:15
Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat

Observers have not ruled out the possibility that the ongoing political disputes in Baghdad will have repercussions in the southern city of Basra, which witnessed last week violent anti-government protests over poor services and unemployment.

The disputes in the capital have pitted the “construction and reform” coalition, of Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, against the “construction” coalition, of Fateh alliance leader Hadi al-Ameri and former PM Nouri al-Maliki.

Recent statements from the rival camps revealed the depth of the differences between them.

Abadi had, during a visit to Basra on Monday, stated that the “developments here are purely political. Unfortunately, some political blocs that enjoy military wings want to set the city on fire.”

He made his remarks in an indirect reference to the “construction” alliance.

On the other hand, supporters of the alliance have been active on social media in blaming Abadi for the unrest in Basra. They also questioned the measures that he was adopting to address the situation.

Witnesses told Asharq Al-Awsat that posters, protesting Abadi’s visit, were spotted in the city.

One such poster read: “Basra is the city of martyrs and it is not honored by those who conspire against it.”

The dispute between the rival camps has also led to suspicions over the companies that have been tasked with resolving the city’s water crisis. Abadi had ordered on Monday the al-Fares company to address the crisis.

Fateh coalition MP Uday Awwad accused on Tuesday the firm of corruption, saying that it is owned by one of the members of the Basra provincial council.

The premier’s efforts were not enough to stoke tensions in the city as a protest kicked off on Tuesday during which demonstrators raised photographs of the victims of clashes with security forces that had tried to contain the rallies.

Meanwhile, a concerned committee tasked with tackling the water crisis attributed the problem to negligence.

It cited the accumulation of mud and the growth of aquatic plants in storage tanks as reasons for the malfunction of water pumps and filters that has consequently led to water shortages in Basra.

Separately, Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi reopened on Tuesday his country’s consulate in Basra after it was torched by angry protesters last week.

Speaking at the mission’s new building in the city, he said that the attack will not affect Tehran’s ties with Baghdad.

“Our common enemy is trying to ruin this relationship,” he stressed.

“At the moment, we are not laying blame on any specific side for torching the consulate. Iraqi officials have the duty to find the perpetrators,” he added.

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