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Iran Stops Flights To Baghdad And Najaf Amid Iraqi Protests

An Iraqi protester chants slogans as he marches with a national flag during an anti-government demonstration in the central holy shrine city of Najaf on October 25, 2019

An Iranian aviation industry representative says flights to Baghdad and the Iraqi city of Najaf have stopped. Iraq is gripped by widespread protests against the government and on occasion protesters also voice anti-Iran slogans.

Last night in the Iraqi city of Karbala, a holy site for Shiites, crowds attacked the Iranian consulate and security forces opened fire killing three people, sources told Reuters.

Iran’s Mehr news agency says that currently there are still a few Iranians at Najaf airport who will return apparently by the last flight.

Maqsud Asadi Samani the Secretary of Iran’s Aviation Union said the resumption of flights depends “on the internal situation in Iraq”.

Iran’s General Consul in Karbala has also remarked that currently, conditions are not appropriate for the presence of Iranian pilgrims. Millions of Iranians visit Najaf and Karbala every year.

Last week, Iran’s foreign ministry had advised citizens to delay their plans to visit Iraq.

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iran has built up an extensive network of politicians and militias in the country and has acted as a power broker in Iraqi politics. Protesters, who are angry with corruption of the political elite and lack of jobs have directed some of their anger against Iran.