Iraq's Khor al-Zubair Petroleum Terminal Reopens After Protests

Protesters gather on the road to Khor al-Zubair, Nov. 19 (image via social media)

Published Nov 21, 2019 8:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

Protests in southern Iraq continue to hamper port operations at Umm Qasr, the nation's main entry point for food commodity imports, and the disruption has intermittently affected the nearby petroleum terminals at Khor al-Zubair as well. Protesters have periodically cut off road access to the two ports with sit-ins and barricades, according to VOA, and port officials told Reuters Wednesday that Khor al-Zubair has resumed normal operations after several days of blockade.

Anti-government protests have swept southern Iraq for nearly seven weeks, leading to billions of dollars in economic losses and more than 330 fatalities. In Baghdad, crowds have camped out in Tahrir Square to demand an end to corruption and Iranian influence. Security forces have been deployed to keep them off the bridges leading to the Green Zone - the quarter once occupied by American administrators and the current home of Iraq's national government. On Thursday, seven more people were killed and dozens of others were wounded in clashes between protesters and security forces on the bridges, including victims who were struck directly by tear-gas canisters. 

Iraq is ranked among the world's most corrupt countries in transparency perception surveys, and its public infrastructure still has not recovered from the effects of the years-long Iraq War, despite billions in oil revenue available for improvements. Anti-corruption experts recently told the AP that much of the nation's oil wealth goes to support public salaries in an abnormally large-scale political patronage scheme. About 40 percent of the state budget - which is largely derived from oil revenue - went for civil servants' salaries in 2019, leaving less for public works and services. 

On October 31, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi offered to resign over the protests, but only if the nation's political parties can come to agreement on a replacement. Mahdi's statement came after two rival Shiite leaders, Hadi al-Amiri and Muqtada al-Sadr, announced that they would cooperate to seek his removal. al-Amiri and al-Sadr lead the two largest factions in the Iraqi parliament, and they appointed Abdul Mahdi to his post in October 2018.