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Before Basra’s Destruction

Before Basra’s Destruction

Sunday, 9 September, 2018 - 09:00
Salman Al-Dossary
Salman Al-Dossary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

Throughout history, early civilizations emerged on the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. Iraq never faced a dispute with other Arab Gulf countries over water. However, today, the Basra province, which lies on the banks of the Shatt al-Arab and the Tirgis and Euphrates rivers is suddenly suffering from a water shortage sparked by Iran.

Iran cut off water from the province, leaving Basra city to suffer from an unprecedented drought. Some 18,000 of its citizens have also fallen ill due to drinking contaminated water.

Who would have believed that Basra that boasts nearly 80 percent of Iraq’s oil cannot provide drinking water to its people? The simple reason is that the Iranian neighbor has closed off the sources of water and polluted the Shatt al-Arab through its chemical waste dumps.

The people rose up in anger in mid-July, not just against Tehran, but also against its allied militias that have settled in the southern province. The protests are the strongest form of Iraqi popular action against Iranian practices since it stepped into Iraq in 2003 after the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime.

The Iraqi protesters took to the streets to condemn their poor living conditions and chanted slogans against Iran. These poor living conditions are but a natural consequence of Iranian meddling in Iraq and its impact on the citizens, who refuse to follow political powers and militias that are affiliated to the Khomeini regime. These parties and militias were able to cement their position on the ground given the absence of a central authority and rule of law, as well as the major political vacuum caused by the factions’ failure to form the largest bloc at parliament. This in turn has impeded the formation of a government that could cater to the needs of the people.

This left the Iraqis, whether Shiite or Sunni, to vent their anger against Iran, whose pressure helped weaken all of Iraq’s state institutions. The situation has reached such an extent that the people are being denied their right to water and their country’s rivers.

The uprising in Basra demonstrates that the Iraqi anger is not just sectarian, as Iran and its pawns like to claim. The Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis have shown their readiness and ability to stand against Iranian hegemony and its attempts to continue to control their country.

The protests were prompted by daily needs, not political hegemony, but the latter is in fact the main source of the people’s anger. This shows the extent of Iran’s growing losses in a country it had invested greatly in through funding politicians, supporting parties and arming sectarian militias.

In the end, 15 years of hegemony have gone down the drain and they have now become a burden on the Khomeini regime, which had gloated about its occupation of four Arab capitals.

The Iranians may have been too optimistic and enthusiastic in claiming the success of their agenda. The residents of Basra rose up out of their belief that this was the only way to help tackle their deteriorating living conditions, restore stability and save whatever can be salvaged before – not after - Basra’s destruction.

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