Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dire Straits - Part 1

There's an interesting article today in Aswataliraq [Arabic language] about a strike by bakeries in Diwaniyah. It graphically illustrates the dire straits in which the green zone government finds itself because of the fuel shortage in Iraq about which I wrote on Wednesday the 16th.

Background Information:

Diwaniyah's the capital of the of the Qadissiyah governorate in central Iraq and was estimated in 2005 to have about 390,000 inhabitants and is a major distribution centre and market for argricultural products particularly dates and grain. More to the point it was where leaders of the Ba'ath party were attacked with rockets in 2000, and was one of the five Shiite provinces in central Iraq that in 2004 voted to begin setting up their own autonomous region. These plans haven't been shelved and the five provinces have been quietly going about setting up the structures for autonomy.

Diwaniyah - strike

The article quotes Ali Mohammed a thirty five year bakery owner as saying that the reason for the strike was the scarcity of kerosene and the increase in the price of bread to the citizen caused by the higher black market prices for fuel. He was backed up Saad Hamid who said that the strike was organised by bakers in protest at the failure of the provincial government to distribute the ration of 660 Litres of fuel allocated to bakers.

Diwaniya's deputy governor, Wissam Kadhem, apologised and has promised to ensure adequate supplies saying that fuel was essential and all efforts by the local government to obtain sufficient quantities to ensure continuity would be supported. He invited the bakery owners, who have threatened a general strike, to a meeting to negotiate a solution.

Dire Straits

It's difficult to understate the seriousness of this for the green zone government. There's massive disillusionment with their performance amongst the Iraqi population. The fuel shortage means that people cannot cook and even when they can cook food is considerably more expensive because distribution costs have risen explosively. That's on top of the fact that a huge proportion of the population depend on food rations, and that the price of food has risen enormously because of economic "reforms" forced upon Iraq by the American occupiers who, together with the world bank now headed by Paul Wolfowitz one of the architects of the Iraq war, made it a condition of continuing financial flows to the green zone government.

The situation is particularly grim in Baghdad where there's been a concerted campaign targetting bakers, (who in Iraq tend to be Shia,) and their premises. Diwaniya's relatively peaceful, most of the population are Shia if the population there can't get fuel for cooking and are forced as the article says to stand in long queues for scarce and expensive bread then the place is on a very short fuse. People get angry, very angry, when their food supply is threatened. If the green zone government can't ensure food supplies then others will step in to do so.


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