July 16 (UPI) -- Authorities in southern Iraq are concerned about the risk to the nation's oil given the political unrest gripping Basra, Iraqi media reported Monday.
Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada said internet service in much of the country is out and national security forces are accused of using "excessive" force to dispel protestors in the southern province of Basra. According to its report Monday, the southern region has become a "battlefield."
Area residents have complained the region's vast oil wealth hasn't trickled down. There are reports of casualties as protestors press for more work.
Al-Mada reported that authorities are concerned about the threat to oil production in Basra, which accounts for the bulk of Iraq's total output. Demonstrators have tried to block key port access, though the newspaper reported no calls for evacuation from supermajors like Royal Dutch Shell that operate in the area.
The political situation in the country is tense in general after May elections. A parliamentary bloc led by influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr emerged victorious. Sadr's militia led an uprising against U.S. forces at the height of the campaign that started in the middle of the last decade.
Iraq is the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, behind Saudi Arabia. Secondary sources reported to OPEC economists that Iraq averaged 4.5 million barrels per day in June, up about 1.5 percent from May.
Iraq is the third-largest crude oil exporter to the U.S. market, behind Canada and Saudi Arabia, respectively. OPEC economists said Iraqi exports surged 122,000 barrels per day compared with last month.
Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi said last week the country realized $40.3 billion from crude oil exports in the first half of the year, compared with $27.6 billion during the first half of 2017. The minister said the country saw a price of oil average $69.32 last month, up from $42.07 from June 2017.