The US post-2003 order has been under challenge in Iraq from a new quarter: Shias who expected to benefit from Washington’s installation of a Shia fundamentalist regime in Baghdad. Thousands of Iraqis have stormed into the streets on Fridays to protest the lack of electricity and water, unemployment, corruption, mismanagement and Iranian interference in the country’s affairs. The protests began in Basra, the country’s second largest city with a population of 2.5 million, and spread to Maysan, Dhi Qar, Najaf, Karbala and the capital. Security forces have responded with tear gas, water cannons and live fire, killing at least 14 since July 8. Southerners have launched the protests as they suffer from chronic power cuts and a lack of clean drinking water at a time when temperatures reach 48 degrees Celsius. The spark that lit the protests was Iranian reduction of electricity and fuel supplies, deepening power outages. Iran — which is also facing an economic crisis — has demanded back payment for both power and fuel. According to some commentators, Iran may be retaliating against the US for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal by harming Iraq, a US ally. This is unlikely. Before the latest protests began, Iran’s popularity with Iraqis was low. Since Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi and other leading figures in the regime have long enjoyed the patronage of Iran, it is blamed for the government’s poor performance and rampant corruption. Therefore, Iran is unlikely to court further Iraqi alienation. In a bid to show itself as a friend of Iraq, Saudi Arabia has pledged to supply Basra with fuel to ease the crisis. The situation is complicated by a rebellion by oil field workers demanding better pay and by tribesmen demanding jobs in the oil fields which produce 70 per cent of Iraq’s crude oil. Tribesmen have warned they will “paralyse” the fields unless their demand is met. However, tribal leaders, international oil companies and local officials have, for years, colluded in corrupt deals costing tens of millions of dollars and depriving the Iraqi public of services. Dozens of people in Basra have been killed by racketeers. gulftoday.ae | Michael Jansen: Basra should be booming Basra should be booming.