By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
As the United States enacts sanctions on Iran, Iran is increasing its influence in Iraq with plans for a railway that could work around US restrictions.
The state-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (RAI) revealed details Nov. 12 about its project to build a railway connecting Iran’s Shalamcheh border crossing to the port of Basra in southeast Iraq.
Maziar Yazdani, RAI’s deputy head of infrastructure and technical affairs, said the Shalamcheh-Basra leg of the project will require only 20 miles of new track at a cost of about $52,000. With the new addition, the rail system will span Iraq to reach Syria’s Mediterranean port city of Latakia.
Violent protests erupted in Basra this summer in response to the deterioration of public services. At the centre of the unrest is a water supply crisis which Iraq can only solve with regional and international cooperation.
In August, frustrations over crippled public services, drought and unemployment in Al-Basra governorate boiled over.
Recent violent protests in the southern Iraqi city of Basra have brought to light years of suffering by Iraqis in what is known as the economic capital of Iraq due to its vast oil reserves and deep-sea port access connecting the country to the international market.
Basra, a predominantly Shiite city, also has a significant minority population, including black Iraqis and Christians. It is Iraq’s second-largest city and has developed a reputation for fostering some of Iraq’s greatest artists.
During the first Gulf War, the Iraqi military used Basra as a route for the Kuwait invasion; ironically, a decade later, U.S.-led forces used it as a path toward Baghdad during the 2003 invasion.
By Hamdi Malik for Al Monitor. Any views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
As protests continue, residents of Iraq’s Basra call for autonomy
Anger is escalating in Basra over the new government’s stance toward this strategic city and the demands of its people. The continued marginalization of this oil-rich city could spell a new round of unrest.
Voices have been calling for new protests and sit-ins in Basra in light of what activists describe as neglect of the province by the Iraqi central and local governments.
As part of their efforts to organize protests, Basra activists launched the Arabic hashtag that translates into “We are coming back for you.”
They called on Basra’s residents to stage mass protests in front of the South Oil Company (SOC) on Nov. 4 and to prevent its employees from entering its premises.
By Hamdi Malik for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
The oil-rich port city of Basra is feeling the heat of the intensifying conflict between the United States and Iran. Pro-Iranian armed groups that threaten the United States from time to time are active in the city. The US-Iran tension is expected to affect the economic situation in Iraq in general, and in Basra in particular.
The US State Department announced Sept. 28 its intention to close its consulate in Basra and pull out its diplomats. This comes after three mortar shells targeted the US Consulate there.
On Sept. 29, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Quds Force — a special force unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — and its commander Qasem Soleimani of being behind the threats. The United States “will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks,” he said.
Due to concerns about the security of U.S. government personnel, on September 28, 2018, the Department of State ordered the departure of U.S. government personnel from the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah.
In a statement, the State Department said:
“Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo [pictured] has made the determination to place Consulate Basrah on ordered departure. U.S. Embassy Baghdad will continue to provide full consular services to for those in and around Basrah. The Department’s updated Travel Advisory is available at Travel.state.gov. We remain strongly committed to supporting Iraqis in the southern provinces and throughout the country.”
Please see the Department’s updated Travel Advisory for Iraq here.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Iraq and recommends U.S. citizens currently in Iraq to depart immediately. Because commercial options are readily available, the U.S. government does not plan to offer to transport U.S. citizens out of the country at this time.
U.S. citizens should not come to the Embassy for travel arrangements. They should make their own transportation and lodging arrangements. The Embassy will not accept any personal or real property for protection, including pets.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will continue assisting U.S. citizens. Those without valid passports or who are unable to arrange for their own travel or travel for their dependents because of insufficient funds or other reasons that prevent them from traveling by commercial means, should email this office at BaghdadACS@state.gov or contact our office by phone at 0770-443-1286, as soon as possible. If asked to come in for an appointment, people should bring:
U.S. citizens: passport or other proof of U.S. citizenship; and
Non-U.S. citizen spouses, children, and dependents: passports with valid visas and proof of relationship (birth or marriage certificates).
Embassy Baghdad will contact visa applicants to inform them if a change is made to their appointment.
We strongly recommend the following for U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Iraq: