CAIRO - Arab media is reporting at least several dozen protesters in Iraq have been wounded after Iraqi security forces fired tear gas to try and disperse demonstrators that have blocked off roads leading to the country's main seaport of Umm Qasr. Arab media also is reporting that protesters in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala have been burning Iranian flags to protest Tehran's activities in their country.
Arab news channels showed video of protesters blocking the main road leading to the port of Umm Qasr with burning tires and blocks of concrete. The port, through which Iraq imports grain, cooking oil and sugar, has been closed since Wednesday.
Arab media also showed video of protesters in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala burning Iranian flags. Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV claimed that a popular movement also is underway to boycott Iranian products.
In Baghdad, hundreds of protesters gathered in the city's iconic Tahrir Square as darkness fell. Video on social media showed a young protester being shot by Iraqi security forces under the Jumhuriya Bridge near the square. It was not clear if the man survived the shooting. Media reports have indicated the number of injured is in the dozens.
Sheikh Ali Safi, representing Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, told Friday's prayer gathering in Karbala, that no one, group, faction or regional or international power can hijack the will of the Iraqi people and impose its will on them.
Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was widely decried in Iraqi media for a tweet in which he urged Tehran's supporters in both Iraq and Lebanon to "remedy the insecurity and turmoil in their countries," which he alleges was caused by the U.S. and Israel, in addition to some Western and Gulf countries.
Dr. Paul Sullivan, who is a professor at the U.S. National Defense University, tells VOA that "Iraq's foment could become much worse, [and] if the situation spins out of control [the country] could become unmanageable at many levels." "Iran," he argues, "should read the tea leaves [because] many in Iraq and Lebanon do not like their oppressive moves."