Islamic State group targets Iraq’s electricity supplies
Islamic State group (IS) militants have conducted a series of attacks on transformation towers in Iraq in recent weeks, compromising the country's already weak electricity supply amid soaring summer temperatures.
IS has focused its attacks on electricity infrastructure in Diyala province, which borders Iran, sources from the interior and electricity ministries told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
Some of the towers carry energy loads from Iran through Diyala to other parts of Iraq.
Iraqi authorities have in the past blamed the attacks on "terrorist gangs", although sources revealed that IS has conducted 30 attacks on transformation towers and stations over the past four weeks.
The attacks have led to entire cities being left without power, the sources said, sometimes taking authorities three days to restore electricity supplies.
Iraqi security expert Ahmed Al-Nuaimi told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the attacks are partly intended to undermine the Iraqi government's standing and provoke more protests in the country.
Iraqis need electricity to power air conditioning and fridges, with inadequate supplies fuelling protests.
Iraq is suffering from a long, hot summer this year with the temperature in Baghdad predicted to soar to 48 degrees Celsius by the end of the week.
The national grid provides electricity for only part of the day with Iraqis turning to generators to patch up their electricity supplies.
In a blow to Iraq’s ability to produce electricity, Iran last year reduced its gas exports to Iraq due to overdue payments.
In a bid to cut its energy dependence on other countries, Iraq's government said it wants to construct eight nuclear reactors by the year 2030.
The spokesman for Iraq's electricity ministry told state media that it had taken measures to protect transmission towers, including asking for the interior and defence ministries to "provide the necessary protection" and ordering thermal cameras to be installed near power lines.
The ministry said it also met with local government and tribal leaders to see how best to protect the towers.
In previous summers, IS have orchestrated a campaign of crop fires across a stretch of Iraq and Syria, the dried-out grassland and pasture the perfect tinder.
IS was declared defeated in Iraq in December 2017, but they maintain a presence in the country's disputed territories, including in parts of Diyala province.
The UK's newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will take part in operations against IS in Iraq, naval commanders said on Sunday.