Laura Ashley Powell
This past week, the U.S. Consulate in Basra, Iraq, was the target of a rocket attack. The State Department has decided to temporarily close the consulate and evacuate all the staff in response.
No one was killed as a result of the attack, but Basra, which is near the border of Iran, has been an increasing subject of concern as the violence grows. It was stated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the multiple attacks in the area were from multiple Iranian forces.
“I have advised the Government of Iran that the United States will hold Iran directly responsible for any harm to Americans or to our diplomatic facilities in Iraq or elsewhere and whether perpetrated by Iranian forces directly or by associated proxy militias,” said Pompeo.
“I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks.”
In addition to blaming the government of Iran, Pompeo also specifically called out the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Quds Force and Qassem Suleimani of the Quds Force, both groups from Iran. The White House also sent out a statement condemning Iran for not stopping the attacks.
Basra’s United States consulate is one of three diplomatic centers in Iraq. The city is the nation’s greatest economic resource because of its oil reserves, but it has suffered years of war, corruption and neglect. The militia took control after the U.S. invaded in 2003.
Adding to the chaos in the city is the anti-government protests that have been going on since early this summer. There is a high unemployment rate, and many have been without electricity and clean water in an area that sees temperatures up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We are tired of their killing. We are tired of their corruption,” one protestor told Jane Arraf of NPR. “All the parties in the government now—they are corrupted, all of them. We want to change them.”
There have also been protests against the Iranian Government because of its role in the current conflict. The protestors set the Iranian Consulate on fire, dealing a great amount of damage.
President Trump gave a speech at the United Nations General Assembly addressing Iran’s role in the chaos in the Middle East and its attacks against United States allies.
“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” said Trump. “They do not respect their neighbors or borders, or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond.”
Pompeo once again addressed the situation through a tweet targeting Iran.
“We’ll hold Iran’s regime accountable for any attack on our personnel or facilities, and respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives,” wrote Pompeo. He also said in a statement, “I have made clear that Iran should understand that the United States will respond promptly and appropriately to any such attacks.”
Basra used to be a beautiful, prosperous city once known as “the Venice of the East.” However, after decades of corruption and war, the once-beautiful canals are now filled with garbage, tap water comes out contaminated and the power goes out numerous times every day. A severe drought resulting in rivers drying up has led to a water crisis.
In Arraf’s interviews with protestors, she found people of all ages and professions whose desire was to end the corruption. They want the best for their country; many even clean up the streets after demonstrations.
“We have been here for months, no official has come to us or even a policeman came to us to ask us what we want,” said protestor Ahmed Hussein. “We are not looking for a fight, we are just asking for our legitimate rights.”