Explosion Cuts Iran-Iraq Power Line

Explosion Cuts Iran-Iraq Power LineExplosion Cuts Iran-Iraq Power Line

An explosion targeting a power installation in eastern Iraq has disrupted the flow of electricity from neighboring Iran, the electricity ministry said, aggravating energy shortages amid a weeks-long heatwave.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the overnight blast against the Mirsad electrical line in a desert region about 20 km west of the town of Mandali in Diyala province on Thursday. Officials said it had reduced capacity by 400 megawatts.

Ministry spokesman Musab al-Mudaris said an improvised explosive device had been planted under the power installation.

"Such an act, of course, targets civilians and their comfort, especially with the rising temperatures," he told Reuters. "It also aims to agitate civilians against the electricity ministry and in turn the government."

Mudaris added that the line had previously been targeted about a dozen times.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a Shia Muslim who took office nearly a year ago, is under pressure to improve security and economic conditions while navigating a polarized political landscape.

  Protests Against Electricity Shortage

Iraq's electricity grid has been worn down by years of war and under-investment. It will probably supply only 11,000 megawatts of Iraq's 21,000-MW peak demand this summer, the electricity minister said last month.

Temperatures surpassing 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) across Iraq in recent days have exacerbated regular summer power shortages and prompted the government to declare a four-day holiday last weekend.

Iraqis demanding electricity, jobs and government reforms have staged protests in the capital and southern cities in recent weeks, underlining the pressures on a Baghdad government struggling to fend off radical insurgents.

According to governmental records, about 35,000 factories have been shut down during the last 20 years due to lack of electricity, leaving almost seven million people without jobs. One and a half million of those unemployed are in the capital city of Baghdad.  

Despite the fact that Iraqi officials, who have governed the country since 2004, have poured more than $37 billion into solving power production problems, there are no signs of improvement on the ground.

Power supplies from the national grid often do not exceed five hours per day. People turned to the private generators years ago to make up for the lack of electricity, which was supplied by the national grid.

"The absence of a strategy from the ministry of electricity and energy is the reason for this failure," Bahaa al-A'araji, deputy of the Iraqi prime minister and the head of Energy Committee, told a group of reporters in a televised meeting broadcasted by Iraqiya, the State Satellite TV Channel last Tuesday.

"The second reason is the corruption, which exists in all ministries in general and in the ministry of electricity in particular," Aa'raji added.

According to the spokesperson of the Iraqi Minister of Electricity, Mohammed Fathi, the national grid now supplies no less than 12,000 MW on average while the real need is 21,000 MW.

Economists say that the Iraqi economy is "paralyzed" and is in a state of "deflation and stagnation" due to the lack of energy production and the required reformation needed to boost this sector.