A SENSE of calm has returned to Iraq’s southern city of Basra after a week of violent protests over unemployment and poor public services left 15 people dead.

Troops sent from Baghdad have reinforced police and government offices and markets reopened after a quiet night. Municipality workers were out in force cleaning up the streets and carting away debris from the clashes.

The oil-rich region and other cities in Iraq’s southern Shiite heartland have been rocked by the most serious protests in years, with residents complaining of power outages, filthy tap water and soaring unemployment.

In recent days, protesters have attacked government offices, political party headquarters and the Iranian consulate. Many blame their woes on neighbouring Iran’s outsized influence on Iraqi politics and are calling for radical change.

Iraq is still without a new government nearly four months after elections in which no party won a majority. Rival parliamentary blocs – one seen as friendlier to the US and the other allied with Iran – each claim to have assembled a governing coalition. Prime minister Haider al-Abadi, part of the pro-US bloc, and Basra’s governor have traded blame for the crisis.

Iraq’s government has tried to meet demand for public services and jobs, but has been hindered by years of endemic corruption and a financial crisis fueled by diminished oil revenues and the costly war against Daesh.