Iraq needs to reclaim its country, push Iran out

It is up to Iraq’s Arab neighbours to help Iraqis reclaim their country and push Iran’s dangerous influence out once and for all.
Sunday 17/03/2019
Encroachment ambitions. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi (R) meets with Iranian President Hassan Rohani in Baghdad, March 11.  (Reuters)
Encroachment ambitions. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi (R) meets with Iranian President Hassan Rohani in Baghdad, March 11. (Reuters)

Iranian President Hassan Rohani made his first official visit to Iraq to seek deeper bilateral ties and economic partnership in the face of sanctions imposed by the United States that have begun to bite into the ailing Iranian economy.

Before departing Baghdad, Rohani said modern Iraqi-Iranian relations were built on how Tehran “rushed to help” any country in the region seeking its aid, including Iraq.

This was, of course, in reference to the immense Iranian military, economic and political support to the Iraqi government during the crisis caused by the Islamic State (ISIS). What Rohani failed to mention, however, is how Iran’s theocratic regime has been the primary instigator of groups like ISIS in the first place.

Speaking of helping one’s neighbours, which would ordinarily be admirable, I wonder why Rohani and the Iranian regime failed to help prevent the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Not only did they do nothing to hinder the mass slaughter of Iraqis, the destruction of national infrastructure and the illegal occupation of a neighbour they profess to care about, the Iranians actively offered assistance to the then-George W. Bush administration in its plans to invade a sovereign country.

In his book about his time as a senior Bush administration diplomat, Zalmay Khalilzad confirmed that he met with future Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and said the Iranian diplomat agreed US warplanes bombing Iraq back to the Stone Age could stray into Iranian airspace without repercussions.

Khalilzad discussed gaining Tehran’s assistance in encouraging Iraqi Shia parties to engage in a post-Saddam Hussein political order, the fruits of which are clear today with a veritable “who’s who” of pro-Iran Shia Islamists dominating government, state institutions and running violent Shia jihadist militias up and down the country with absolute impunity.

Cognizant of the mullahs’ negative actions in their country’s affairs, Iraqis of all flavours — Sunnis and Shias alike — have continuously demonstrated against Iran’s incessant meddling.

Has Rohani and his boss, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, paid them any heed? Do they care that Iraqis are not asking Iran for help but are, in fact, asking them to get out? Did they rein in their jihadist militias from beating, torturing and killing protesters in Basra, Najaf and elsewhere in the Shia heartland? Or did they turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to what Iraqis really want and set their militants loose on largely defenceless civilians?

Rather than highlighting Iran’s malignant role in Iraq and issuing declarations, just as they did against the United States, denouncing Tehran’s actions, Iraqi politicians have continued to grovel before their Iranian masters. They rolled out the red carpet for Rohani and are absolutely committed to helping Iran evade US-imposed sanctions.

Iraq’s political parties seem oblivious to the fact that voters have stopped showing up, with the last election garnering a paltry 45% turnout. However, they are alive to the fact that, if the Iranian regime falls, they, too, will fall alongside the mullahs they are loyal to over their own people.

These repeated visits by Iranian officials, whether Rohani or Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani, demonstrate just how insignificant Iraq has become militarily, economically and politically.

Because of Iran’s dubiously masterful manipulation of the United States and leveraging its Shia Islamist proxies into positions of power and influence, Iraq has become Iran’s back garden where it comes and goes as it pleases.

It is up to Iraq’s Arab neighbours to help Iraqis reclaim their country and push Iran’s dangerous influence out once and for all.

2