Who’s afraid of Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement?

Iran’s rulers would never allow any Iraqi prime minister to open a window to Iraq’s Arab environment that might help heal the people’s wounds.
Wednesday 18/11/2020
A supporter of pro-Iran militias holds a poster of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Shia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis during a protest in Basra, Iraq. (AP)
A supporter of pro-Iran militias holds a poster of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Shia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis during a protest in Basra, Iraq. (AP)

There was nothing surprising in the fierce media campaign against the steps taken towards Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement, a campaign led by Nuri al-Maliki, head of the Dawa Party, and other officials against the backdrop of the recent Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council meetings in Baghdad.

In fact, the absence of such attacks would have been the real surprise, because if rapprochement is implemented carefully and genuinely by Iraqi officials, which is no easy task, it stands to contribute, in its economic aspects, to building important bases for a development drive that serves Iraq’s higher interests.

Knowing this, how can we expect the Shia parties and their militias to welcome government moves towards Iraq’s Arab brethren, especially Saudi Arabia with its economic weight?

By welcoming rapprochement with the Arab world, the Shia parties and militias would immediately relinquish their ability to plunder Iraqi people’s wealth and suppress them with their weapons, and cease to be at the service of the Velayat-e-Faqih’s regime in Tehran, which cannot allow any move in the interest of Iraq and its people. This, of course, is unacceptable.

In the economic arena, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is trying to check the Iraqi Revolutionary Guard’s growing control over the economy and its penetration of the joints of the economic system. He is trying to stop the economy from being dismantled for the benefit of an economic mafia at a time when the country’s budget deficit has reached a point where loan laws are needed for the state to be able to borrow to pay its employees.

Meanwhile, Kadhimi is systematically disparaged in the media by Shia party leaders and their militias. They hope to prevent him from daring to take any steps towards Iraq’s Arab environment, especially Saudi Arabia.

It is strange for the prime minister to complain in the media about the hostile campaigns aimed at disrupting the steps of rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, even though he possesses all constitutional powers to do so.

It is sad to see him hesitant and fearful as he tries to place rapprochement with Saudi Arabia within the framework of attracting foreign investment. Neither he nor whoever formulated his media statement found it appropriate to mention Iraq’s traditional brotherly bonds with the Arab world in general and with its neighbour to the south, Saudi Arabia, in particular. Still, the prime minister’s statements indirectly acknowledged and exposed those frenzied campaigns waged against Iraq’s supreme interests.

Before Kadhimi, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a Shia who was vice-president of the Dawa Party and definitely a Tehran sympathiser, was subjected to a similar hostile campaign by the same Shia groups for his visit to Riyadh in 2017.

Abadi’s crime was that, adhering to basic common sense to fulfill his responsibilities as prime minister, he grew convinced of the need to open up to Iraq’s Arab environment. He first did so because of Iraq’s historical importance to the Arab world, which represents strong ties that these hostile parties are feverishly trying to sever, and secondly because of Iraq’s urgent need of Saudi support, knowing very well that oil-rich Saudi Arabia could never turn its back on the people of Iraq.

It was then that the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council was established, but it was not activated until 2020. Tehran, of course, punished Abadi for his move by not renewing his tenure for a second term in 2018. Abadi was not alone Iraqi figure to draw Tehran’s wrath. Similar uproar was voiced over the visit of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr to Riyadh and his meeting with the Saudi crown prince.

Shia party leaders and militias in Baghdad believe that they can persuade their loyal supporters, mercenaries and beneficiaries to accept the fanciful conspiracy theory that Saudi Arabia is in pursuit of the strategic goals of encircling Iran’s influence in Iraq and seizing its desert to the Iraqi borders with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as if Saudi Arabia were in need of additional stretches of desert.

Political naivete and backwardness reached their apex when Iran’s Shia leaders tried to convince their simple-minded and gullible proxies in Iraq that Saudi Arabia’s real goal was to plunder and sabotage the groundwater reserves beneath the Iraqi desert by investing in agricultural projects in that same desert. Qais Khazali, head of the Asaib militia, described the Iraqi-Saudi agreement as “colonialism, not investment, and coincides with normalization with Israel.”

If we assume, for the sake of argument, that Riyadh’s goal in investing in Iraq was to encircle Iranian influence, then why would these righteous Iraqi students not invite their guardian and supreme guide in Tehran to order Iranian investments in the Iraqi desert?

Is it because they’re busy plundering any form of hard currency circulating in Iraqi markets and sending it to Tehran? Or maybe they’re happy forcing Iraq’s economy to produce and export only goods of inferior quality and forcing Iraqi farmers to give up their agricultural production so Iran can dominate the country’s food  market.

There is only one objective behind provoking Saudi Arabia through a planned media attack by parties loyal to Tehran — to keep the people of Iraq, with all its sects and ethnicities, captive to Iranian hegemony.

These parties never miss a chance to spark a whirlwind of vengeance and hatred. If these parties and their associated mafias of corruption had shares in the proposed Saudi investment projects in Iraq, forgetting for the sake of argument the political and ideological objectives of the Tehran regime, there would not be such a vicious campaign.

What is being said about a Saudi-Iranian ideological struggle is due to the fact that the Khomeini-inspired regime in Tehran believes, based on his theory of Velayat-e-Faqih, that the authority in Tehran must always be the centre and locus of Islamic guardianship, and that Muslims all over the globe must submit to the new Persian empire.

This is the ideological basis of Tehran’s project of “exporting its Islamic revolution” and “Persianising” the Arab region starting from Iraq. This agenda was most persuasively exposed, not by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states or Maghreb countries, but by the Iraqi people and the uprising of their youth, not forgetting that Iranian people themselves have been afflicted by the mullahs’ dictatorship for forty years.

Saudi Arabia is the Arab country most capable of helping Iraqis economically in the difficult circumstances they are going through. And it would be an added bonus if such help turns out to be detrimental to the Iranian regime, and helps reduce its influence in Mesopotamia.

It is not surprising that the leaders of the Shia parties loyal to Tehran, in their feverish race to please the Iranian supreme leader, have reached such a scandalous degree of irresponsibility by being totally oblivious to the concerns of Iraqis and thwarting any Arab efforts to help them.

Based on their wish to dole out longterm punishment to Iraqis by isolating and humiliating them, Iran’s rulers would never allow any Iraqi prime minister to open a window to Iraq’s Arab environment that might help heal the people’s wounds and alleviate the injustice inflicted on them.