Iraq seeks Saudi help with crisis as protests continue

Iraq seeks Saudi help with energy crisis as protests continue
2 min read
17 July, 2018
This comes after Iran scaled back the quantity of electricity shared with Iraq as Tehran grapples with its own domestic tensions.
Oil-rich Basra province has erupted in protests over corruption and dismal services [Getty]
A senior Iraqi delegation is heading to Saudi Arabia to discuss possible assistance with its energy and electricity crisis, which is partly responsible for the ongoing bloody protests in Basra province. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi tasked a high-level team of ministers to travel to Riyadh on July 18, an Iraqi official statement said on Tuesday. 

This comes after Iran scaled back the quantity of electricity shared with Iraq, as Tehran grapples with its own domestic tensions and over overdue debts, according to reports.

"Planning Minister Salman al-Jumaili will head a delegation including the minister of oil and transport and senior officials to Saudi Arabia to discuss several bilateral issues... led by the electricity and fuel issue," a statement from the planning ministry said on Tuesday.

According to local reports, Abadi will also dispatch the minister of electricity to Riyadh this week to sign urgent energy agreements, as part of his bid to contain the fallout from power shortages in southern Iraq this summer.

Abadi had earlier said Iran was suspending electricity transmission to southern Iraq.

The protests in southern Iraq entered their second week on Monday, with anger erupted over the government's inability to tackle unemployment and basic services.

Two people were killed in Basra on Sunday, following an incident outside the governor's headquarters, while on Friday protesters stormed Najaf's airport, prompting flight cancellations.

Iraqi counter-terrorism forces were deployed across the capital Baghdad on Tuesday, as anti-government rallies continued into their second week, putting social problems and a lack of basic services - including electricity - under the spotlight.

A number of Middle East airlines - including FlyDubai, Emirates, Royal Jordanian and Oman Air - have cancelled flights to a number of cities in Iraq hit by the unrest.

Meanwhile, police used batons and rubber pipes to disperse a crowd of around 250 people, who have gathered to protest outside the Zubair oilfield, near Basra.

The demonstration of mostly young Iraqis, demanded jobs or better paid work at the oilfield.

Abadi vowed on Tuesday allocate funds for water and electricity in Basra, one of the key complaints of disgruntled citizens.