The Iraqi port city of Basra was thrown into bedlam after protests against socio-economic inequality and corruption turned violent, culminating in the torching of many government buildings and even the Iranian consulate. The local population has plenty of reasons to be upset, ranging from rampant unemployment to the lack of basic utilities, but these relatively commonplace problems in the “Global South” are made all the more infuriating by the fact that southern Iraq has most of the country’s oil reserves, leading to populist claims that corrupt politicians are stealing money from the people. Because of its predominant economic, military, and soft power influence in the country, some of the raging mobs were successful in scapegoating Iran as the cause of their suffering, thus leading not only to the burning of its consulate, but also to the shouting of provocative slogans against the anti-terrorist Popular Mobilization Units that it helped Iraq form a few years ago for fighting Daesh. Hostility towards the Islamic Republic has been boiling for some time now as a political issue, especially after famous Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s coalition came out on top in the country’s elections earlier this year. The firebrand former militia leader recently adopted a strong stance against the PMUs and Iran, with observers remarking that he seems to be either pivoting away from Iraq’s ally or at the very least trying to “balance” between it and Saudi Arabia. Al-Sadr, as Iraq’s “grey cardinal” amidst the post-election parliamentary uncertainty that still prevails in the country, called on the current Prime Minister to resign as a result of the latest violence, which suggests that the controversial cleric is trying to exploit events for regime change purposes.
The last thing that the already fractured nation of Iraq needs at this crucial crossroads is another serious political crisis because it could easily tear its feuding people apart and provide the opportunity for Daesh or similar terrorists to regain their lost momentum. Furthermore, the geostrategic dynamics of the overall situation are very disturbing because they suggest that Iraq is now becoming more destabilized than Syria, which could therefore pose a security crisis for Iran and add to the Hybrid War pressure that the US has been putting on it lately.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Isyan Devrim, shia political commentator and Adam Garrie, director of Eurasia Future.
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