Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Iran’s Craftiness In Iraq

By Jameel Theyabi

Iran is playing ‘solo’ in the Iraqi arena, with the blessing of the United States and amid sheer negligence by the Arab nations, while the ‘cunning’ Iranian actor is aided in its purposeful offense by Washington and Tehran’s allies in Baghdad. Meanwhile, the government of Nuri al-Maliki is lacking in achievements, having failed to work for the benefit of the Iraqis at home or efface the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein from their minds. Nor has this government succeeded in establishing solid foreign ties with influential regional actors, except with the Iranian ‘uncle’.

In the past few years, Iran succeeded in controlling Iraq, both politically and at the security level, through the militias affiliated with Tehran and its ideological influence. Iran also seeks to dominate Iraq economically, with a view to expand within its provinces and then towards neighboring countries, by mobilizing its fifth column, stirring up religious fervors and sectarian tensions, and supporting insurgent groups by means of petro-dollars to purchase loyalties.

Many Iraqis, from all sects and communities, are criticizing the Maliki government, saying that it has left Iran free to act as it pleases in the country. This has brought to the country a sectarian quota system that helped place ‘failed’ and ‘corrupt’ figures in decision making posts, something that has caused a proliferation of arms and lax security conditions, and subsequently, an increase in assassinations and the preponderance of sectarian and factional discourse.

About two weeks ago, Nuri al-Maliki voiced his criticism of the calls for secession made by the Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama Najafi, which he said would open the door wide open to internal strife and bloodshed. While I disagree with all separatist calls, the statements by Najafi were only made as a result of the frustration among Sunni Arabs vis-à-vis the injustice of and the marginalization by the Maliki government. Maliki must realize that such calls will be repeated in other Iraqi provinces, if his government does not let go of its negative policies, and intervene firmly to end Iranian meddling and sectarian alignment. The Maliki government must also enact a package of reforms that would grant freedom and guarantee social justice for the Iraqis.

A week ago, I sat in London with some Iraqi friends who opposed Saddam Hussein. When his regime collapsed, they quickly returned to Baghdad after a long exile, carrying in their suitcases the memories of a ‘forced’ and painful banishment, in the hope that reuniting with their loved ones and seeing their homeland would erase the sadness that had accumulated over the years, and reignite hope in their hearts once more. However, many of them soon returned to London again, when Iraq proved to be inhospitable to them. But some of their comrades in exile had turned into opportunists looking for personal gain or for a chance to settle old scores, overlooking the policy of exclusion pursued by the Maliki government, and turning a blind eye to Iranian meddling. These comrades became immersed in the search for posts to occupy, prompting the rest of their friends to return to exile once again, and declare their dissent from there for fear of liquidation and assassination in Iraq.

Recently, a conference for the boycott of Iranian products was held in Baghdad. This year, the conference carried new slogans such as: We don’t want Iranian presence on our lands and Iraq is Arab, not Persian. The conference saw the participation of a large audience, representing many national political parties. During the conference, the president of the South Liberation Movement Awad al-Abdan spoke, calling on Iran to immediately cease meddling in Iraqi affairs, and gave Tehran one week to make a formal apology to the Iraqi people after the Iraqi flag was burned at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran. Abdan threatened that after this one-week ultimatum, the movement would start burning Iranian flags in all Iraqi provinces. This is while the Secretary-General of the Twentieth Revolution Movement, Sheikh Walid al-Azzawi, declared his absolute support for and commitment to the boycott campaign, and noted that Iranian meddling in Iraq is even effacing the country’s cultural identity. He said, “A while ago, they leveled the monument marking the Revolution of the Twentieth. But while they can indeed destroy monuments, they cannot destroy the people behind them”. Al-Azzawi then described Iranian meddling in the region as being ‘shameful’, and said it is aimed at harming all Arab countries. On the other hand, Dargham Zaidi stressed his support for the campaign, and not only called for the boycott of Iranian goods, but also for them to be burned in the streets. Sheikh Farooq Muhammadawi then conveyed the salutations of the tribes in the provinces of Maysan, the South, and the Central Euphrates to the South Liberation Movement and to all those present, and declared his support for the campaign. He stressed that the Persian threat is grave, and said that Persian ambitions in Iraq will never stop except by means of a clear plan to confront the Persian plot.

But all these honest and patriotic calls coming from leading Iraqi figures, failed to budge the Maliki government’s policies. Instead, Maliki continues to be subservient to the regime in Tehran, colluding with its agendas and turning a blind eye to its interference. But Maliki knows that no country has suffered from another country’s meddling like Iraq did at Iran’s hands, especially as the latter exploits the deteriorating security conditions in Iraq to render it into an arena for its battle with the United States and the international community.

I believe that there is no bigger threat to the Arab countries in general and the Gulf countries in particular today, than the threat of the Iranian regime. The policy of the vilayet-i-faqih [clerical rule] seeks to expand into all the countries of the region in order to achieve its goals, fulfill its ideology and secure its interests. This policy has found elements that encourage its direction, and help it achieve many gains in countries like Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Bahrain, motivating it to persist and attempt to export is revolution with a view to influence and to destabilize neighboring countries. Iran possesses effective means to achieve this aim of stirring up strife and fervors, and stoke confrontations and unrest in the course of its battle with the ‘Great Satan’!

This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 26/07/2011

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