Tehran will not miss an opportunity to remind the world that it stands opposed to the United States and that it is ready and willing to use violence to achieve its aims and to harm US interests in the Middle East and beyond.
Its proxies who fight with money, training and arms from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) spare no expense in dedicating airtime to how they would seek “martyrdom” in any fight against the United States. It is with some surprise to Iraq observers, then, that these zealots are oddly timid about the prospect of a war between Iran and the United States.
Of course, despite the tough talk and Dutch courage the Iranians and their proxies developed over a long time of being intoxicated on their own egos, those with a careful eye for events know that, without the United States, Tehran’s proxies in Iraq would not be in power today.
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had them on the run even when Iraq was at its weakest under intense US-led international sanctions that make the present sanctions against Iran look like child’s play. Without US support for Shia dissidents and Iranian cooperation with the US-led Iraq war of 2003, it is highly unlikely the mullahs would be extending the tendrils of their influence and Shia extremism across the Middle East today.
Iraqi Shia jihadist leaders such as Qais Khazali, who heads the Asaib Ahl al-Haq terror group, was full of grandiose threats of violence to Mosul’s Sunni Arab population when they were being held hostage by the Islamic State.
Khazali and other Iranian proxies carried out those threats in an orgy of sectarian violence, torture, murder and rape against a hostage civilian population. Yet, at the mere suggestion of US military power being used against Iran, Khazali suddenly sobers up and turns into a peace advocate, calling publicly for both his masters and the White House to de-escalate because it would be in neither side’s interests to go to war.
Similarly, notorious Badr Organisation leader and former cabinet minister Hadi al-Amiri released a statement following a suspected IRGC-backed rocket attack near the US Embassy in Baghdad calling on Iraqis “not to be the fire that fuels this war” that would “burn everyone.”
Why the cold feet now, Amiri? Was it not you who were exposed all over YouTube in footage showing how you fought on the side of Iran against your own country during the Iran-Iraq War?
Why was it exciting to scream “Death to America!” as you slaughtered and tortured Iraqis back then but suddenly, when there is a prospect of actual Americans on the battlefield, you hang your tail between your legs?
I would imagine that Khazali, Amiri and others of their radical ilk would all give sensible sounding reasons of Iraq’s “sovereignty” and not wanting Iraq to be the site of a proxy conflict between Washington and Tehran.
However, the real reason why Iraqi Shia jihadists are absolutely terrified of an outbreak of conventional war between Iran and the United States is because they know it would be the end of their experiment of ruling Iraq by gangsterism, robbing, raping, killing and torturing as they please. Iran would summon the banners and call on old debts to these groups to be repaid.
If Amiri is any example to go by during the Iran-Iraq War, Iraqi Shia jihadists would attack US interests, forcing a kinetic response from the White House. It would radically change US policy in Iraq, forcing Washington to drop its support for the current political process and perhaps empowering those who have been marginalised and on the periphery since 2003.
These would be the same people who are the sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters of countless victims of Iran’s brand of Shia jihadism. If those people ever got power, and considering Iraqi law, Amiri and Khazali can expect to follow closely in Saddam’s footsteps as they take the walk to the gallows themselves. That is a fate they will want to avoid at all cost.