Dual crises grip Iraq as temperatures soar and Iran cuts off energy lifeline

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A technician monitors an electric switch board connecting homes to privately-owned electricity generators in Baghdad. (File/AFP)
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A technician monitors an electric switch board connecting homes to privately-owned electricity generators in Baghdad. (File/AFP)
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Updated 01 July 2021

Dual crises grip Iraq as temperatures soar and Iran cuts off energy lifeline

  • Country’s electricity minister has already resigned following calls from a powerful Shia militia leader
  • Analyst warns that energy crisis could lead to another “summer of discontent”

LONDON: A political and social crisis in Iraq has escalated in recent days, as soaring temperatures, widespread protests and rolling blackouts take hold of the oil-rich south of the country.
Iran, which normally supplies around a third of Iraq’s gas and electricity, has drastically curtailed the amount of energy it is providing to the country, in what some believe is an attempt to force the country to pay millions in unpaid bills.
Iraq’s Minister of Electricity Majed Mahdi Hantoosh submitted his resignation this week, following calls for him to step back by opposition figures including powerful Shia cleric and militia leader Muqtada Al-Sadr.
An official at Iraq’s electricity ministry told The Independent there were now as many as 18 hours of power cuts a day on average, impacting the operation of homes, hospitals and businesses.
“The Iraqi government is in a very bad situation, because of the corruption and random planning and the continued dependence on Iran for its power output,” Ayad Khalaf, from the southern Al-Karkh Distribution Co., told The Independent.
But “the resignation of the minister is not the solution,” he added. 
According to reports by the Associated Press, four cross-border electricity lines from Iran into Iraq were showing zero output, and gas imports too have dropped to negligible levels.
“Gas imports from Iran range from 1.5 to 1.8 billion cubic feet per day,” Yesar Al-Maleki, Gulf analyst at the Middle East Economic Survey, said.
“Now, we see electricity generation in the south collapsing below 1 GW, meaning not just these lines are offline but even gas flow is down.”
The impact of these reductions has been immediate and drastic.
Basra province alone requires 4,000 MW during the summer but is currently only receiving 830, according to the Associated Press.
Across the country as a whole, energy supplies are still well below the required amount. Demand usually sits at between 20,000 and 30,000 GW, but the country was receiving just 12,500 this week, Sajad Jiyad of The Century Foundation told The Independent.
“We’ve never met demand, we have always had blackouts and generators but now it is very severe,” he said, adding that most places have only four or five hours a day of power from the national grid.
“It is the beginning of a summer of discontent that harks back to 2018. I think we’ll have more protests kick off very soon especially if we have another COVID-19 lockdown. If people are stuck at home with no power, it will only lead to more anger.”
There are concerns that this year’s energy issues will lead to a repeat of 2018, when widespread protests brought the country to a standstill, toppled the government, and saw hundreds of protesters shot by police and militia operatives. Those protests also coincided with Iranian power cuts over non-payment issues.

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Canada sanctions Iran morality police as protests flare

Updated 19 sec ago

Canada sanctions Iran morality police as protests flare

OTTAWA: Canada on Monday announced sanctions against Iranian officials over the Islamic republic’s lethal crackdown on protests driven by the death of a young woman after her arrest by the morality police.
“We will implement sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities, including Iran’s so-called morality police,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference.
“We join our voices, the voices of all Canadians, to the millions of people around the world demanding that the Iranian government listen to their people, end their repression of freedoms and rights and let women and all Iranians live their lives and express themselves peacefully.”

Leading Iran cleric calls on authorities to 'listen to people'

Updated 1 min 8 sec ago

Leading Iran cleric calls on authorities to 'listen to people'

  • Protests ignited by a young woman's death in morality police custody show no sign of letting up
  • Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani has long been aligned with ultra-conservative establishment

TEHERAN: A leading Iranian cleric has urged authorities "to listen to the people", as protests ignited by a young woman's death in morality police custody show no sign of letting up.

Demonstrators have taken to the streets of major cities across Iran, including the capital Teheran, for 10 straight nights since the death of Mahsa Amini.

The 22-year-old was pronounced dead on Sept 16, three days after her arrest in the capital for allegedly breaching Iran's dress code for women.

"The leaders must listen to the demands of the people, resolve their problems and show sensitivity to their rights," said Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani in a statement posted on his website on Sunday.

The powerful 97-year-old cleric has long been aligned with the country's ultra-conservative establishment and strongly backed supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on several occasions - notably during the 2009 protests against the reelection of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Any insult to the sanctities and any attack on the rights of the people and public property are condemned," Hamedani added.

At least 41 people have been killed since the protests began on Sept 16, mostly protesters but including security forces, according to an official toll.

The protests have spread to several cities, where demonstrators have shouted slogans against the authorities, according to local media.

More than 1,200 demonstrators, reformist activists and journalists have been arrested during the mostly night-time demonstrations across the country.

On Sept 18, Grand Ayatollah Assadollah Bayat Zanjani, a cleric seen as close to the reformists, denounced what he said were "illegitimate" and "illegal" actions behind the "regrettable incident" of Amini's death.


Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

Updated 26 September 2022

Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

BERLIN: Germany summoned the Iranian ambassador in Berlin on Monday over a crackdown on nationwide protests that were sparked by the death of a woman in custody, a German foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Asked about the possibility of further sanctions on Tehran in response to the unrest, the spokesperson said “we will consider all options” with other European Union states.
Last week, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police over allegations of abuse of Iranian women, saying it held the unit responsible for the death of the 22-year-old in custody.


Iran says 450 protesters arrested in northern province

Updated 26 September 2022

Iran says 450 protesters arrested in northern province

  • Hundreds of demonstrators, activists and journalists have been arrested during the mostly night-time demonstrations
  • The unrest first broke out on September 16 after the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in custody of Iran's morality police

TEHRAN: Authorities in a northern Iran province have arrested 450 people during more than 10 days of protests following a young Kurdish woman’s death in morality policy custody, state media reported Monday.
Hundreds of demonstrators, reformist activists and journalists have been arrested during the mostly night-time demonstrations across the country since unrest first broke out after Mahsa Amini’s death was announced on September 16.
Amini, whose Kurdish first name was Jhina, was detained three days before that in Tehran for allegedly breaching rules mandating hijab head coverings and modest dress.
“During the troubles of the past days, 450 rioters have been arrested in Mazandaran,” the northern province’s chief prosecutor, Mohammad Karimi, was quoted as saying by official news agency IRNA.
They “have attacked government buildings and damaged public property in several parts of Mazandaran,” he added.
Local media reported that protesters were shouting anti-regime slogans, and Karimi said they were led by “foreign anti-revolutionary agents.”
On Saturday, authorities in the neighboring Guilan province announced the arrest of 739 people, including 60 women.
Iran’s judiciary chief, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, on Sunday “emphasised the need for decisive action without leniency” against the core instigators of the “riots,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online website said.
At least 41 people have died since the unrest began, mostly protesters but including members of the Islamic republic’s security forces, according to an official toll.
Photos published Monday by the Tasnim news agency showed protesters in Qom, a holy Shiite city about 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of the capital Tehran.
Security forces have released these images of “lead instigators,” Tasnim reported, asking residents to “identify them and inform the authorities.”


Iran says 450 protesters arrested in northern province

Updated 26 September 2022

Iran says 450 protesters arrested in northern province

  • Hundreds of demonstrators, reformist activists and journalists have been arrested during the demonstrations across the country

TEHRAN: Authorities in a northern Iran province have arrested 450 people during more than 10 days of protests following a young Kurdish woman’s death in morality policy custody, state media reported Monday.
Hundreds of demonstrators, reformist activists and journalists have been arrested during the mostly night-time demonstrations across the country since unrest first broke out after Mahsa Amini’s death was announced on September 16.
Amini, whose Kurdish first name was Jhina, was detained three days before that in Tehran for allegedly breaching rules mandating hijab head coverings and modest dress.
“During the troubles of the past days, 450 rioters have been arrested in Mazandaran,” the northern province’s chief prosecutor, Mohammad Karimi, was quoted as saying by official news agency IRNA.
They “have attacked government buildings and damaged public property in several parts of Mazandaran,” he added.
Local media reported that protesters were shouting anti-regime slogans, and Karimi said they were led by “foreign anti-revolutionary agents.”
On Saturday, authorities in the neighboring Guilan province announced the arrest of 739 people, including 60 women.
Iran’s judiciary chief, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, on Sunday “emphasised the need for decisive action without leniency” against the core instigators of the “riots,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online website said.
At least 41 people have died since the unrest began, mostly protesters but including members of the Islamic republic’s security forces, according to an official toll.
Photos published Monday by the Tasnim news agency showed protesters in Qom, a holy Shiite city about 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of the capital Tehran.
Security forces have released these images of “lead instigators,” Tasnim reported, asking residents to “identify them and inform the authorities.”