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No Prosperity in Baghdad without Prosperity in Basra

Al-Hayat, London, July 17

Iraqi men and women have taken to the streets in the past few weeks to protest their dire living conditions and failed government. Protests have been particularly violent in the southern part of the country, where international oil companies have been exploiting Iraq’s natural resources while refusing to invest money back in local communities. Residents of cities like Najaf and Basra, who have had enough of power outages, water shortages, decrepit infrastructure and pervasive corruption, have reached a boiling point that pushed them into the streets. This boiling point was literal, given the average daily temperature of 100°F, coupled with the lack of readily available water in most local homes. The unfortunate reality in Iraq today is that the country is governed by an elitist class beholden to Iran. Members of this class are completely detached from the people they claim to represent. They live in secluded residential compounds, maintain vacation homes abroad, and gain wealth by selling Iraq’s resources to the highest bidder. Although it was once celebrated as a country that removed its longtime dictator from power, defeated Islamic State, and held its first-ever free and fair democratic elections in several decades, Iraq remains far from a success story. It is a country in a state of utter disrepair. The only glimmer of hope comes from witnessing the similar protests unfolding in both Iraq and Iran at the same time. Iraqi protesters managed to block the Najaf Airport and take over the offices of political parties associated with Iran. They blocked roads leading to oil factories and managed to halt oil exports from the southern part of the country. Similarly, Iranian cities have seen widespread protests against the regime in Tehran. The Iranians, too, are fed up with a ruling class that is detached from the people. Whether what we’re witnessing in Iraq will amount to a full-fledged revolution remains to be seen. But in the meantime, Iraq’s Shi’ite population is sending a clear message to their representatives: There will be no prosperity in Baghdad until there is prosperity in Basra. –Hazem al-Ameen

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