Iran-linked militants in Basra are threatening foreign oil companies in an attempt to sabotage popular demonstrations and the reforms launched by Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Haider al-Abadi.
The issue of Dr. al-Abadi’s reforms in Iraq and the events in Basra Province in southern Iraq in the month of August led to the Prime Minister’s trip to this province.
What was the main reason behind this visit? In this piece we will attempt to discuss this matter in detail.
What happened in Basra? The city of Faw witnessed a demonstration against corruption, poor economic conditions and unemployment on August 16th, where a young man by the name of al-Maturi was gunned down by unknown individuals. The demonstration was held outside the offices of foreign oil companies and the protesters were demanding to be employed by these companies.
Subsequently, the people and youth became very angry and attacked the city council, forcing the governor and all others inside the building to evacuate the facility.
These events were simultaneous with the Quds Force transferring former Iraqi prime minister and dismissed vice president Nouri al-Maliki to Tehran, and the Mosul file being unveiled accusing Maliki as the first suspect in the fall of Iraq’s 2nd largest city to ISIS. Following its adoption by the Parliament, the Mosul dossier was referred to the judiciary on August 16th. Tehran, terrified of an arrest warrant being issued by the judiciary for Maliki, rushed a delegation led by Qassem Suleimani to Baghdad on August 19th to pressure Prime Minister al-Abadi and prevent an arrest warrant for Maliki, and also get a guarantee from al-Abadi to take no measures against Maliki.
On the other hand, Iran has launched its own measures through its militants to place further pressure on Prime Minister al-Abadi. From Sunday, August 18th militant groups have been seen threatening foreign oil companies. As a result, all foreign companies have said they will end their work if their security is not provided for.
Iran’s objective in pressuring al-Abadi’s reform plans were being met, due to the fact that foreign oil companies stopping their work would be a stop in the country’s oil. This can force al-Abadi’s reforms into complete destruction and failure.
A number of elements are involved in this regard. The city of Basra is an important city different from all other cities in Iraq. It is considered the first oil city and Iraq’s port as it leads to the ocean and exports Iraq’s oil. Therefore, it is economically important for Iraq as all foreign oil and shipping companies are focused on Basra. From 2003 Iran-backed militants have not been just an armed force; in fact, they have founded a number of maritime services companies to take control over all of Iraq’s docks. And this control has brought about a strategic depth and influence for Iran in this city.
Basra militants are able to significantly prevent the work of oil companies and their investments. US oil companies are very much concerned that these militants will take control of these sites. Today, these militants have begun threatening foreign oil companies, and therefore they are threatening the reform measures launched by Mr. al-Abadi.
Through such measures in Basra Iran is targeting oil giants supporting Mr. al-Abadi and all of Iraq’s economy that is very much relied on oil exports. As a result, the city atmosphere in Basra has become very tense.
Following this trend al-Abadi made a trip to Basra on Tuesday, August 18th to see to the situation on the ground and provide security guarantees to the oil companies. He has ordered security forces to protect foreign companies and guaranteed these companies they will be facing no threats at all.
Subsequently, Qassem Suleimani conducted various meetings in Baghdad receiving guarantees Maliki would not be arrested. As a result, Maliki returned to Iraq on Thursday.
In the middle of all this the people of Basra were the ones who suffered the most. The reason is that Iran took advantage of the demonstration in Basra and used its militants to reach its goal of returning Maliki to Iraq without him being arrested or prosecuted.
The situation in Basra Province remains very tense. The people are very disappointed of the actions taken by al-Abadi’s government in this regard, protesting and emphasizing on continuing their rallies until their demands are met.
In my final word I would like to say that Iran has held the city of Basra hostage, and whenever it wants it can use its militant groups to create havoc in this province, forcing foreign companies to stop their work and therefore impose its will on the Iraqi government. As a result, there is only one solution left for Mr. al-Abadi: evicting the Iranian regime in its entirety from all aspects of life in Iraq.