This article was originally published by Al Arabiya English.
I think if the Iraqi parliamentary elections were to be held last year, Iran may have easily managed to impose a prime minister and a government. Fortunately for the Iraqis, the situation has developed on both the internal and external fronts in a way that’s not in favor of General Qassem Soleimani who considers himself the ruler of the Fertile Crescent.
The Americans and their important allies have this year been active and viewed the elections as a dangerous affair that requires following up on and balancing the Iranian pressure. The Israelis also got involved their own way and threatened to shell Iranian military presence in Iraq, without heeding to the consequences.
In any case, it seems the number of the MPs who are willing to stand against the Iranian regime’s ambitions constitute the majority. More than 170 MPs have joined the moderate Sairoon bloc which is led by Shiite reference Muqtada al-Sadr, and the bloc is thus larger than the bloc “affiliated with Iran” and which is led by Nuri al-Maliki and Hadi al-Amiri.
Iraq was an Iranian guarantee
It’s expected that Iran is shocked, as it viewed Iraq as its guaranteed state, more guaranteed than Syria and Lebanon. Its political, security and military investment is evaporating before its eyes. Let’s not forget that it takes the credit for liberating Mosul from ISIS and saving Baghdad from collapsing back then.
What Sky News Arabia broadcast yesterday about MPs saying that they received death threats from the Iranians and were warned against supporting the Sairoon bloc is not strange. Reading the statements and news published by Iranian institutions is enough to realize the extent of anger in Ayatollah Khamenei’s court as they all there agree that Sairoon’s progress is an American conspiracy and they reject respecting the choices of the people’s representatives.
As for Israel, it’s clear that its statements are threat messages to Iran and to any upcoming Iraqi government that may think of complying with Tehran’s demands. It warned the upcoming government that having Iranian missile batteries brought from Syria into Iraq will result in the intervention of Israeli fighter jets and sovereignty will not protect Iraq from pursuing these missiles and striking them.
Is Israel serious in its threat, despite being aware that unlike Syria, Iraq is a stable and independent state? Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman commented about shelling Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Iraq and said: “We are not limiting ourselves just to Syrian territory. This also needs to be clear.” The deputy chief of staff of the Israeli Army echoed the same threat.
The truth that’s clear to everyone is that the Iraqis are today deciding the future of their country and children, and not just the future of their government and premiership. The rise of any group in support of Iran will make this large country, which has suffered a lot, an expedient to a regime that’s living through its darkest days. The Tehran regime intends to use Iraq as a state to confront others, as a sandbag to trench itself on the line of fire against the US and its allies.
Iran also needs Iraq to launder its dollars and buy from it using its local currency the Toman. It wants to use Iraq to smuggle merchandise and break the boycott imposed against it. It wants to use Iraq’s water to end the crisis which its rural areas are suffering from due to its bad developmental policy and due to squandering its savings in Lebanon’s, Syria’s and Yemen’s wars. It wants to turn Iraq into another Lebanon where its militias, like the Iraqi Hezbollah, are active and where they fight on its behalf like the Houthis do in Yemen and Hezbollah does in Lebanon.
Everyone is waiting for a moment of Iraqi decisiveness which will mean a lot for Iraq and the region.
This article was originally published by Al Arabiya English. Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed