Violent demonstrations in Iraq against prolonged blackouts as mercury soars

Iraqis rally outside the provincial council building in Basra, Iraq, on May 25, 2021 to protest power cuts. (AP file)
Iraqis rally outside the provincial council building in Basra, Iraq, on May 25, 2021 to protest power cuts. (AP file)
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Updated 10 July 2021

Violent demonstrations in Iraq against prolonged blackouts as mercury soars

Violent demonstrations in Iraq against prolonged blackouts as mercury soars
  • Govt says few pay utility bills, with many stealing power by hooking up lines illegally to main lines

KARBALA, Iraq: Hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated on Friday in several southern towns and at a government-run power plant against prolonged electricity cuts as the mercury soars.

“We want electricity to be restored and if it isn’t we’re not leaving this plant. We’re going to stay put and shut it down,” demonstrator Diaa Wady said outside Al-Khairat electricity station near Karbala.

The predominantly male crowd surrounded and attacked the car of an official, smashing its rear window and shouting.

“We are peaceful protesters who are here only for our rights. Our demand is for electricity to return and if it doesn’t we’ll bring our tents and camp out,” said frustrated demonstrator Sajjad Aoun Al-Kiriti.

With daily highs topping 50° Celsius for several days in succession, dozens also protested Friday in other southern provinces such as Maysan, Wasit and Al-Kut.

The Electricity Ministry says the blackouts, which started last week in the south before spreading to the rest of Iraq, were caused by unexplained attacks on power lines.

FASTFACTS

Iraq buys gas and power from Iran to supply about a third of its power sector, dilapidated by decades of conflict, poor maintenance and corruption.

But Iran decided last month to cut crucial power supplies to its neighbor, saying the Iraqi electricity ministry owes it more than $6 billion in arrears.

“Someone is trying to destabilize the country and sow chaos,” ministry spokesman Ahmad Moussa said on television.

Electricity Minister Majed Hantoosh resigned in late June, a day before Tehran announced its cutback in supplies. It was the 18th year in succession that Iraq’s minister of electricity has failed to survive the summer season.

Boiling temperatures and power outages often go hand in hand during the summer months in Iraq, but there are other factors behind the latest crisis.

Iraq says it is unable to pay because of US sanctions on money transfers to Iran, a deep financial crisis compounded by lower oil prices, and the pandemic.

The government in Baghdad also says few consumers are paying their utility bills, with many stealing electricity by hooking up lines illegally to power mains.

The spate of power cuts has exposed a deep divide between the heatwave haves and have-nots.

While relatively well-off residents of Baghdad can afford generators that crank into action when the national grid falters, others have been struggling to cope without air-conditioning for days.

Government employee Sadiq Sadkan pays about $200 per month to access a generator supplying his middle class neighborhood during blackouts. “I’ve got a gold standard subscription to a private generator, which works 24 hours a day ... it can turn on any time of the day,” Sadkan said.

Seif Talib, a 29-year-old filmmaker who lives in Basra, tries to cope with the heat by scheduling the shooting of outdoor scenes in the spring and saving indoor scenes and editing for the summer.

Talib said that at his home the power has been off more than 12 hours each day since mid-June. His one-year-old daughter cries at night in discomfort, and Talib said he felt increasingly stressed. “Temperatures higher than 50° are normal for us. But the electricity, too? That’s such a complicated problem,” he said.


US appreciates Kuwait’s support for mutual return to compliance with Iran nuclear agreement: Blinken

US appreciates Kuwait’s support for mutual return to compliance with Iran nuclear agreement: Blinken
Updated 10 sec ago

US appreciates Kuwait’s support for mutual return to compliance with Iran nuclear agreement: Blinken

US appreciates Kuwait’s support for mutual return to compliance with Iran nuclear agreement: Blinken

LONDON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US appreciates Kuwait’s support for a mutual return to compliance with the Iran nuclear deal.

Speaking at a joint conference during Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah’s visit to the US, Blinken said they discussed Iran, and that the JCPOA is the “most effective way to ensure that Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon.”

“We are very grateful for Kuwait’s close coordination through venues like the GCC Iran working group where we have stood together against Iran’s destabilising actions in the region,” the secretary of state said. 

Blinken thanked Kuwait for helping to “significantly reduce the threat that Daesh poses to international security even as we remain very vigilant about the ongoing threat.”

He also said that the Gulf country stood by the US during the evacuation of Afghanistan in August 2021 as people fled Taliban rule.Kuwait helped the US evacuate thousands of people from Afghanistan including US citizens, foreign nationals and Afghans, Blinken said.

“Because of Kuwait’s help, thousands of people reached safety and Afghan families have been able to start new lives around the world.“This was a signal of Kuwait’s generosity and its commitment to humanitarianism and international stability.”

“We see that in the leadership role that Kuwait plays in institutions like the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League,” he added. 

Sheikh Ahmad thanked US commitment to the stability and security of Kuwait and the region.

 “The US and Kuwait are solid partners, great friends and we appreciate this historically strong partnership, the minister said. 

“We are partners in combating terrorism after 9/11 and we were partners as well in the liberation of Iraq, he said. He added that Kuwait also provided safe transitory corridors for people feeling Taliban rule in the country.


Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat

Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat
Updated 26 January 2022

Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat

Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat
  • “We are now pushing deeper into Juba and Abedia districts,” a military official said
  • This week, government forces seized control of most of Hareb district, inflicting major military blow to the Houthis

AL-MUKALLA: Dozens of Houthis were killed on Wednesday in the central province of Marib as government troops rolled into a new area in Abedia district for the first time in months, adding to the latest military gains in the province, a local military official told Arab News from Marib.

A day after seizing control of strategic mountainous locations in neighboring Hareb, Yemen’s army and the Giants Brigades seized control of Al-Jafara in the district of Abedia, south of Marib, and besieged Um Resh military base in Juba district, also south of Marib, after heavy fighting with the Houthis who are coming under attack from government troops and intense airstrikes from the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen.

“We are now pushing deeper into Juba and Abedia districts,” the military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

Local media reports said that warplanes from the Coalition intensified airstrikes on Houthi targets in Abedia district, apparently to prepare the ground for government troops to advance into the strategic district.

This week, government forces seized control of most of the district of Hareb, including the town of Hareb, inflicting a major military blow to the Houthis who have suffered heavy defeats in Marib since the start of the year.

Military officials say that seizing control of Abedia and Juba would effectively mean protecting the central city of Marib from Houthi attacks from the south and it would also allow government troops to advance into the neighboring Al-Bayda province.

Last year, the Houthis besieged thousands of people in Abedia district and heavily shelled residential areas with missiles, mortar fire and explosive-rigged drones to force local army units and tribal fighters to surrender.

The Houthi siege had pushed thousands of people to the verge of mass famine and sparked local and international condemnation.

The coalition’s deployment of hundreds of fighters from the Giants Brigades from the country’s west coast to the central province of Marib late last year helped government troops to reverse Houthi military gains south of Marib and in Shabwa province.

On Wednesday, the Coalition said it killed more than 160 Houthis in 31 airstrikes in Marib, Al-Bayda and Taiz.

The Coalition’s announcement about the latest Houthi casualties came less than a day after its warplanes carried out intensive airstrikes against military targets in Houthi-controlled Sanaa, sparking thunderous explosions.

Residents reported seeing flames of fire and smoke billowing from military bases north, west and east of Sanaa on Tuesday night.

Videos circulated on social media showed missiles fired by the coalition’s warplanes exploding inside mountain military bases.

The Coalition has accused the Houthis of storing and assembling ballistic missiles and explosive-rigged drones that targeted Saudi Arabia inside military bases in Sanaa.


Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi

Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi
Updated 7 min 6 sec ago

Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi

Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi
  • El-Sisi reiterated Egypt’s condemnation of the Houthis militant attacks against the UAE

DUBAI: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi arrived Wednesday on a state visit to Abu Dhabi  where he was welcomed by United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed.

The Egyptian president later attended a meeting Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. 

Upon arrival, the Egyptian presidency said the president’s visit aims to bolster ties between the UAE and Egypt.

It also said that El-Sisi reiterated Egypt’s condemnation of the Houthis militant attacks against the UAE.

El-Sisi intended to “(consult) and (coordinate) on the latest regional developments, in light of what the current stage requires of concerted efforts to protect Arab national security and to counter attempts to destabilize the security and stability of Arab countries,” a statement from Egypt’s presidency read.


UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours

UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours
Updated 26 January 2022

UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours

UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours

DUBAI: The UAE health ministry announced Wednesday 2,369 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, marking a reduction in daily infection rates. 

The new figures bring the total number of recorded cases in the UAE to 833,201.

The ministry briefing also announced four deaths due to COVID-19 complications, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 2,228.
An additional 1,201 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 771,624.


UAE drone ban violators face massive fine 

UAE drone ban violators face massive fine 
Updated 26 January 2022

UAE drone ban violators face massive fine 

UAE drone ban violators face massive fine 
  • Violators will also face jail terms of six months to five years in addition to the fine

DUBAI: The UAE will issue fines of no less than $27,225 to those who violate the recently introduced ban on flying drones in the country. 

According to the country’s public prosecution, violators will also face jail terms of six months to five years in addition to the fine. 

The UAE Public Prosecution made the announcement on Twitter. 

The country’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) had previously announced on Saturday through its official Twitter account that it has stopped “all flying operations for owners and enthusiasts of drones.”

The decision, which was made in coordination with the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), aims to ensure the safety of both people and properties from “bad practices.” 

“The decision came after the misuse spotted recently, not limiting the practice of these sports to the areas identified in the user permits and trespassing into areas where these types of activities are prohibited,” wrote the ministry in its announcement. 

The statement added that those requiring the use of drones or other flying objects for work, commercial, filming or advertising purposes must obtain a permit in order to carry out their work.