Over the past week, protests have erupted in Iraq’s oil-rich Basra province. They have now spread throughout southern Iraq and beyond, reaching Najaf, Karbala, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Muthanna and even Baghdad. Protesters are angry over the lack of jobs and poor public services. Basra accounts for about 80 percent of Iraqi’s oil reserves and roughly 3.2 million barrels per day in oil exports. Iraqi police have reportedly killed as many as four protesters, and Iraqi Security Forces have been placed on high alert. Local government offices, as well as Dawa Party offices, have been attacked, and airports have been stormed, forcing several airlines to temporarily suspend operations. On Friday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi flew to Basra from Brussels, where he attended the NATO summit, to begin talks with regional leaders.
The threat to Basra’s oil production has much broader implications due to a new report by the International Energy Agency that spare oil capacity is being tapped out.