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Iraq: another summer in the dark?

[Image Credit: Safaq.com]

Recent protests in Iraq have brought to light the government's mismanagement of public affairs, like the electricity sector supply.

This situation is due to the unstoppable spread of corruption and cronyism that has characterized the country over the last ten years. Iraq generates around 16,000 megawatts compared to the 30,000 needed to meet domestic demand. Low domestic electricity generation causes electricity shortage problems in the country. This situation becomes a catalyst for popular mobilization, especially during the summer, when domestic consumption is higher.

Last week, the dwellers of Misyan, Karbala and Al-Qadissiya blamed the rampant corruption of the ruling classes and called for the resignation of some government officials accused of being responsible for the low electricity supply at the local level. Two weeks ago, it was Baghdad's turn, and even earlier, Nassiriya and Basra. In the latter ones, such demonstrations have been taking place systematically for the past two years during the summer.I

raq's new government, under the leadership of Al-Khadhemi, has repeatedly emphasized that it is impossible to solve the country's electricity shortage problem in a short time because years of corruption and cronyism have damaged the state's finances.

In the last meeting with the Minister of Electricity and Petroleum, Al-Khadhemi said the past Iraqi governments, specially the last two, have squandered billions of dollars with their network of clients. This includes several contracts Iraqi wealthiest families made with private actors, such as the multinational Siemens, which were aimed at improving the national electricity system.

The low electricity supply ought to lead to new protests in the coming weeks, particularly in the south, where the poorest governorates suffer most from the repeated power outages caused due to the years of mismanagement in the sector.

In order to solve this situation, Iraq signed in July 2020 with Iran a contract which stated that the Islamic Repubblic would be the major exporter of electricity to Iraq. This can be used by Washington and their allies to pressure the Iraqi government to loosen it's ties with the Islamic Republic. This could result in deterioration of the U.S.-Iran relations, with Iraq being the first country to pay the price.

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