Protesters storm Iranian consulate, oil facility in Iraq’s Basra

Orient Net 2018-09-08 07:06:00

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Civil unrest fueled by anger against perceived corruption and misrule by the Iraqi regime’s political elite intensified across the south of the country on Friday (Sep. 7), as protesters stormed the Iranian consulate in Basra while others briefly took workers hostage at a nearby oilfield, Reuters reported.

After five days of deadly demonstrations in Basra in which government buildings have been ransacked and set alight, protesters broke in and damaged the consulate’s offices, shouting condemnation of what many perceive as Iran’s sway over Iraq’s political affairs.

Security sources said the consulate was empty when the crowd burst in.

TheIran, however, blamed Iraqi regime for failing to protect its embassy and said it expected Baghdad to “identify and punish the attackers quickly,” Bahram Qassemi, the spokesman for the ministry, told journalists, according to state media.

The Iraqi ambassador to Tehran was later summoned to the foreign ministry over the complaints.

Several foreign governments have consulates in the city, including the United States and Russia.

In a statement, the US State Department condemned the violence against diplomats and called on “all parties, including security forces and protesters, to uphold the right of peaceful protest and to protect diplomats and their facilities.”

Late in the day some 65 kilometers north-west of Iraq’s second biggest city, another group of protesters entered a water treatment facility linked to the West Qurna 2 oilfield, managed by Russia’s Lukoil.

Oil prices were steady on Friday, with US crude slipping on weak global equity markets while Brent inched up on geopolitical factors, including violent protests in Iraq.

Residents say they have been driven to the streets by corruption that allowed infrastructure to collapse, leaving no power or safe drinking water in the heat of summer, with protests intensifying on Monday.

Iraq’s main seaport Umm Qasr reopened on Saturday early morning and all operations have resumed after protesters left the port’s entrance, port employees and government sources in the area said.

All operations had been halted since Thursday, after protesters blocked the port’s entrance.

Since then at least 12 demonstrators have died in the city of 2 million, mostly in clashes with security forces, as demonstrators torched government buildings and the offices of political parties, whose leaders are all vying to form Iraq’s ruling coalition.