IRAQ – Baghdad, Erbil… and Basra, new internal politic flashpoint


When one thinks of the recent chaos that has been unfolding in Iraq since the Parliamentary Elections most thoughts generally focus on the process that has been unfolding to name not only a new Speaker for Parliament but potentially decide who will run Iraq as well.

But the chaos that has plagued the country has not just been playing out in Baghdad. Nor has the situation involving the Kurdistan been immune to the chaos either. However, there is another location where the chaos has largely gone ignored. That does not mean that snippets of information have not been able to come out either.

The one area that has become a flashpoint that has not generated much press coverage is in the Basra area. You know in the Southern Part of the Country the city which is a Shia stronghold and reportedly a haven for pro-Iranian militia groups.

Since the US invasion in 2003 and in the period following the withdrawal of coalition forces there have been several issues that have plagued the city. One issue that has been a major source of concern is water. For more than a decade several machines that are used to desalinate water have remained unused. Potability of water has been a major source of tension within the city as the population has grown weary over the lack of potable water.

During the protests in the city earlier this summer 2018, several locations that were seen as supporting the rulers were targeted by demonstrators. They included both the Iranian consulate which was destroyed by protestors but was replaced by the Iranian Government within days, and the US consulate. Although there were no reports of damage to the facility itself on September 28th the US saw fit to remove personnel and close the facility. This decision was not well received by the authorities in Basra.

So why the lack of focus on Basra? Other areas have proven to be more strategically critical at certain points of time. Baghdad for example after the recent elections was an obvious area for analysts to monitor. The Kurdistan region was a very hot topic during the rise of and the eventual defeat of Daesh in a three year period which also pointed out flaws in the strategy of the Obama Administration towards Iraq during that critical period of time which then saw fighting expand into neighboring Syria.

Geography suggests that Basra is a major point of confluence. It sits on a major waterway so it is important for trade. Its proximity to Iran makes it an obvious gateway into Iraq to support the many militias and other actors that Tehran supports. Also it is not that far away from the Saudi and Kuwaiti border as well. The actions of the Southern neighbors in the Basra region do not often generate much interest by the media or intelligence services. But shouldn’t they pay attention to what is going on in this city?

Even though there has to be attention paid to both Baghdad and to Erbil as Iraq continues to move forward as a representative democracy it appears that for the foreseeable future Basra will be a major flashpoint in internal politics.


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Specialist in US Policy (Security, Assymetrical Operations and Business Development) towards Africa and Arab World (Washington DC – USA)

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