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Iraq Is Trying to Escape the Iranian Cage, and Tehran Isn't Happy

Falcon29

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Iraq Is Trying to Escape the Iranian Cage, and Tehran Isn't Happy


The Iraqi prime minister seeks to draw closer to the Arab world and the United States, ramping up efforts to influence the political elites ahead of upcoming elections

On June 9, Ihab al-Wazni was killed. “Persons unknown” shot him near his home in the Shi’ite city of Karbala in Iraq, adding him to the list of more than 32 people these “unknowns” have killed since 2019. Like al-Wazni, who helped organize anti-government protests in Karbala, all the other people killed also played big roles in such protests.

But the killers aren’t really unknown. They belong either to Shi’ite militias operating under Iran’s auspices or to militias affiliated with major Iraqi parties, each of which maintains its own private militia.

Ever since mass demonstrations erupted in October 2019 and caused the previous government to resign, leading to Mustafa al-Kadhimi becoming prime minister in May 2020, a quiet civil war has been taking place in Iraq. The Iraqi media describes people disappearing, nighttime arrests, shooting in the streets, fear of going to work or shopping, militias holding military parades through the streets, telephone threats and the torching of opposition activists’ cars.

These events are light years from the vision unveiled in 2003 by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who died this week.

“Well, the wonderful thing about democracy is that when someone sticks their head up, somebody doesn’t like it. And therefore, there will be that process, just like in our country,” he mused in 2003. “There will be a debate. There will be a discussion. And ultimately, people would decide who they want.” Nor was that the only dream Rumsfeld peddled about the rosy future awaiting Iraq after America liberated it from Saddam Hussein.

The clashes seem to have grown more frequent since Ebrahim Raisi was elected president of Iran last month. Iran also recently slashed its supply of electricity and water to Iraq, particularly to the city of Basra and the southern provinces, at a time when temperatures have soared to 45 and even 50 degrees Celsius.

Iran’s official reason is that Iraq owes it more than $4 billion for electricity and water; the country will have to make do with candles and bottled water until Baghdad settles this debt. But this isn’t just a financial dispute.

Over the past two years, such Iranian pressure has been used as a means of diplomatic leverage whose message is loud and clear. If Iraq tries to escape its Iranian cage and enter the bosom of the Arab and Western worlds, especially America’s, it won’t be able to survive.

In June 2020, Iraq was in advanced negotiations with Saudi Arabia on construction of a high-voltage power line that would connect the two countries, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Two weeks later, Iraq signed a two-year deal to buy electricity from Iran.

That same year, it signed a deal with Amman on construction of a 700-kilometer (435-mile) pipeline that would send oil to Jordan in exchange for electricity from the kingdom. A similar deal was signed with Egypt. But in both cases, it will clearly be years before any electricity from these deals reaches the homes of Iraq’s 40 million citizens – and that’s even assuming someone can be found to finance the projects.

Even Washington has grasped that Iraq can’t function without Iranian electricity. That’s why former U.S. President Donald Trump gave it a waiver from U.S. sanctions on Iran so it could continue buying Iranian oil and gas.

On Sunday, Iraqi President Barham Salih hosted his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, and King Abdullah of Jordan. This is the first time an Egyptian president has visited Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Media reports said several economic and diplomatic cooperation agreements were discussed at this meeting. Pundits said Al-Kadhimi apparently wants to show the new American government that Iraq isn’t bound up in Iran’s nets, but also has good friends in the Arab world.

Iraqi spokespeople also used the occasion to remind everyone of the meeting Saudi and Iranian delegations held in Baghdad in April to discuss the war in Yemen. That meeting yielded no practical results, but it did allow Iraq to play the role of mediator, at least momentarily.


Waiting for U.S. withdrawal

Al-Kadhimi’s displays of independence don’t sit well with Tehran. It has therefore stepped up its efforts to gain control of Iraq’s political elites prior to the elections scheduled for October.

This month, Al-Kadhimi is expected to meet U.S. President Joe Biden for the first time. Discussion topics will include the need to neutralize the power of the pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias and the timetable for America to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

This week, U.S. forces once again attacked militia bases near Abu Kamal, on the Iraqi-Syrian border, in response to drone attacks on America’s Al-Assad base and Baghdad’s Green Zone, where both government ministries and the U.S. High Command are located. These attacks put Al-Kadhimi into an uncomfortable position.

He issued a harsh condemnation of them for violating Iraq’s sovereignty and quickly met with the militias’ political leader, Hadi al-Amiri, who told him that the American attacks had changed the militias’ demands. They now insist on a full and immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, with no extensions and no troops allowed to stay to train Iraqi forces, as had been agreed in April.

Al-Kadhimi is no ally of the militias. He takes care to say he won’t let foreign actors – that is, the Iranians – intervene in Iraq’s internal affairs. But at the same time, he is very aware of his country’s economic dependence on Iran, which Tehran began nurturing the moment Saddam Hussein’s regime collapsed in 2003

The clashes between Shi’ite militias and U.S. forces are an inseparable part of the political battle Iran is waging in Iraq. Tehran apparently expected the negotiations over a new nuclear deal to serve as a defensive shield against American attacks and enable it to increase the militias’ power – and therefore its own – within Iraq. But it turns out that Biden’s approach is different from that of former President Barack Obama, who refrained from attacking Syria over its use of chemical weapons for fear that doing so might halt the negotiations his government was conducting with Iran over the original nuclear deal.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Jessica McNulty, made that clear this week after the U.S. conducted airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria. While the United States seeks no quarrel with Iran, she said, it is prepared to defend its forces in the region and respond to any attack or threat.

“Through these and other means, we seek to make clear to Iran and Iran-backed militia groups that there will be serious consequences if they continue to attack, or to arm, fund, and train militia groups that attack our people,” she continued. “We will take necessary and appropriate measures to defend U.S. personnel, partners, and allies in the region.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaking last week.Credit: MOHSEN ESMAEILZADEH - AFP
What she didn’t say was what Washington would actually do if militias in Iraq or other forces under Iran’s auspices, like the Houthis in Yemen or Hezbollah in Lebanon, were to attack an American ally.

Iran’s use of Iraq as a playing field for its regional games requires it to ensure that the Iraqi regime keeps obeying its dictates. But in this regard, it has encountered a complex front.

It can’t even rely on the Shi’ite religious connection, which Westerners view as automatically making Iraq a satellite of Tehran. Nor are the major Shi’ite parties a unified bloc. Their leaders are mainly preoccupied with acquiring political and economic power, resulting in fierce competition among them.

Ali Sistani, the revered 90-year-old Shi’ite leader with millions of Iraqi disciples willing to die at his orders, is a fierce opponent of Iran’s system of government as devised by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. This Iraqi scholar and poet who is well-versed in Western culture and has published hundreds of books and articles on religious interpretation, may well determine whom most Iraqi Shi’ites will support, whether the government should promote ties with the West, and what status pro-Iranian armed militias should have. He has called for ousting all foreign forces and preventing foreign intervention in Iraq’s affairs.

Over the last year, the militias have split between supporters of Sistani and Iranian loyalists. This strife has led to internal wars among them, which merely shows the problems Iran faces.

And Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood is home to more than three million Iraqi Shi’ites loyal to the separatist leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who has similarly demanded the ouster of U.S. forces, while also riding the wave of anti-Iranian sentiment that flared during the 2019 protests.

Al-Sadr, who commands his own armed militias, headed a bloc of parties that won 54 of parliament’s 329 seats in 2018, making it the largest bloc. That gave it power to dictate government policy. In addition to al-Sadr’s party, the bloc includes members of the Iraqi Communist Party, liberals and representatives of several reformist parties.

Over the past few years, and especially after the last election, al-Sadr’s party captured around 200 of the most senior governmental posts and provided thousands of jobs to its supporters. Some of its members serve as deputy ministers. And the prime minister’s bureau chief, Hamid Al-Ghazi, an al-Sadr loyalist, is authorized to decide who will be appointed to many governmental posts.

Al-Sadr decided that a significant portion of Iraq’s $90 billion budget would go to Shi’ite provinces over Sunni ones. He has partnered with the Kurdish faction led by the Barzani family. He even managed to dictate the choice of the central bank governor, Mustafa Ghaleb, in defiance of Tehran, which wanted the job to go to one of its loyalists.

Al-Sadr seems to be well funded and well prepared for the elections. The prevailing assessment in Iraq is that he will once again sweep up most of the Shi’ite votes and put a barbed-wire roadblock in front of Iran.

Granted, the pro-Iranian militias control some of Iraq’s provinces, especially up north near the Syrian border, as well as some neighborhoods of Baghdad. And they are capable of embroiling Iraq in regional conflicts and conflicts with America.

But Iraqis’ antagonism toward them, coupled with the protests over Iran’s stoppage of their water and electricity supply, will force Tehran to walk on eggshells to preserve its political strongholds on the Tigris and Euphrates and to take the American military threat very seriously.

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Jun 20, 2018
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I'm afraid the forum is a joke, a collection of IRI cheerleaders who think news such as this is a joke.

Iraq is a brewing volcano of anger given its situation, that situation brews extremism. ISIS was an example of that.

Iran's malicious policies in Iraq are going to brew another extremist movement.

I remember I was anti Saddam when I first came to this forum, as were many Iraqis.
Iran will never let go of Iraq peacefully, the US made a major mistake installing Pro Iran figures in Baghdad.

They probably thought it would be the right thing to deal with the ba'ath party.
 

Falcon29

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I'm afraid the forum is a joke, a collection of IRI cheerleaders who think news such as this is a joke.

Iraq is a brewing volcano of anger given its situation, that situation brews extremism. ISIS was an example of that.

Iran's malicious policies in Iraq are going to brew another extremist movement.

I remember I was anti Saddam when I first came to this forum, as were many Iraqis.
Iran will never let go of Iraq peacefully, the US made a major mistake installing Pro Iran figures in Baghdad.

They probably thought it would be the right thing to deal with the ba'ath party.

Agreed with what you said, although I think even the PMU parties(some of them) are pondering over the future of Iraq and the direction it is heading. Iranian gov't, like many of gov'ts in region, did not heed to warnings of the Arab Spring, and pushed forward with traditional ways. There will not be another Arab Spring, but rather miscalculations by all parties in region which will bring about the change sought by the demonstrations in the Arab Spring.
 
Jun 20, 2018
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Agreed with what you said, although I think even the PMU parties(some of them) are pondering over the future of Iraq and the direction it is heading. Iranian gov't, like many of gov'ts in region, did not heed to warnings of the Arab Spring, and pushed forward with traditional ways. There will not be another Arab Spring, but rather miscalculations by all parties in region which will bring about the change sought by the demonstrations in the Arab Spring.

I feel sorry for the people in Iraq, I am Iraqi and have a lot of nationalism but I was born in the west.

Iran is taking a shit on Iraq and many Iraqis are becoming increasingly aware of that fact. Not long before the thread gets flooded with Resistance fanboys.

The ISIS threat is diminished, Baghdad sees assasinations of those protesting Iran's militias and the gov. Iran has deep hatred for Iraq as a state and sovereign country, after all we doomed them for 8 years. America granted them their dream which they couldn't get for over a decade. Iraq's gov needs a much more serious campaign in hand with the US and the GCC to wrestle Iranian influence out of the country.

If this doesn't happen, a new ISIS will emerge somewhere in the future.
 

Falcon29

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I feel sorry for the people in Iraq, I am Iraqi and have a lot of nationalism but I was born in the west.

Iran is taking a shit on Iraq and many Iraqis are becoming increasingly aware of that fact. Not long before the thread gets flooded with Resistance fanboys.

The ISIS threat is diminished, Baghdad sees assasinations of those protesting Iran's militias and the gov. Iran has deep hatred for Iraq as a state and sovereign country, after all we doomed them for 8 years. America granted them their dream which they couldn't get for over a decade. Iraq's gov needs a much more serious campaign in hand with the US and the GCC to wrestle Iranian influence out of the country.

If this doesn't happen, a new ISIS will emerge somewhere in the future.

I feel for them too, people overlook Iraq but honestly Iraqi's have gone through a hard time, for a very prolonged period. It is kind of like an Afghanistan of the Middle East. I hope we don't see a new ISIS. I think key for Iraq is relations with GCC and Egypt. The rest of Arab nations cannot offer much from economic and political standpoint. US is more interested in Kurdish defacto state. All these foreign forces need to withdraw from Iraq and Syria for Iraq to experience change.
 

Muhammed45

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This article after bombing Mossad base in Erbil isn't a weird thing specially from Haaretz.
Nothing to Take seriously except this Haaretz article is a pack of lies.
I feel sorry for the people in Iraq, I am Iraqi and have a lot of nationalism but I was born in the west.

Iran is taking a shit on Iraq and many Iraqis are becoming increasingly aware of that fact. Not long before the thread gets flooded with Resistance fanboys.

The ISIS threat is diminished, Baghdad sees assasinations of those protesting Iran's militias and the gov. Iran has deep hatred for Iraq as a state and sovereign country, after all we doomed them for 8 years. America granted them their dream which they couldn't get for over a decade. Iraq's gov needs a much more serious campaign in hand with the US and the GCC to wrestle Iranian influence out of the country.

If this doesn't happen, a new ISIS will emerge somewhere in the future.
Its a fact that ISIS was composed of Ba'athi remnants. And your threat of reviving ISIS can come true if and only if Ba'ath remnants do it again.
 

Falcon29

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This article after bombing Mossad base in Erbil isn't a weird thing specially from Haaretz.
Nothing to Take seriously except this Haaretz article is a pack of lies.

Muhammed, don't you think Iran and Saudi Arabia(and others) need to get on table now, and resolve regional disputes? Don't you think region is running out of time before heading into unknown???
 

Philip the Arab

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I don't really dwell in threads related to Iranian matters there is a lot of circle jerking but that happens in the Arab section as well.
 
Jun 20, 2018
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This article after bombing Mossad base in Erbil isn't a weird thing specially from Haaretz.
Nothing to Take seriously except this Haaretz article is a pack of lies.

Its a fact that ISIS was composed of Ba'athi remnants. And your threat of reviving ISIS can come true if and only if Ba'ath remnants do it again.

Stick to Iranian affairs, I couldn't lite a cigarette and some Iranian jumped on my *** already.

Personally I believe in military solutions, which we did effectively till America saved you from Iraq.
 

khansaheeb

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I'm afraid the forum is a joke, a collection of IRI cheerleaders who think news such as this is a joke.

Iraq is a brewing volcano of anger given its situation, that situation brews extremism. ISIS was an example of that.

Iran's malicious policies in Iraq are going to brew another extremist movement.

I remember I was anti Saddam when I first came to this forum, as were many Iraqis.
Iran will never let go of Iraq peacefully, the US made a major mistake installing Pro Iran figures in Baghdad.

They probably thought it would be the right thing to deal with the ba'ath party.
or the US thought the this would ingulf Iraq into decades of civil war:-"the US made a major mistake installing Pro Iran figures in Baghdad."
 

Clutch

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I think the end game is the balkanization of Iraq along ethnic and religious fault lines.

A divided Iraq with allegiances to different global and regional powers serves the long term interest of the subjection of the Iraqi nation. It serves American, Israeli, Iranian, Saudi, Egyptian, Turkish interests.

Unfortunately, that trajectory is already set and inevitable. The Iraqis have been scarred too deep to reconcile.
 

Muhammed45

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I think the end game is the balkanization of Iraq along ethnic and religious fault lines.

A divided Iraq with allegiances to different global and regional powers serves the long term interest of the subjection of the Iraqi nation. It serves American, Israeli, Iranian, Saudi, Egyptian, Turkish interests.

Unfortunately, that trajectory is already set and inevitable. The Iraqis have been scarred too deep to reconcile.
We have tried for Iraq's Ahli Sunnah brothers and sisters. They will stand with us in the face of American imperialism. The religious faultline in Iraq is long gone.
 

flameboard

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An Israeli newspaper is probably the source I’d trust with regards to news about the Middle East

even if there isa struggle I wouldn’t expect Haaretz to be accurate
 

PakFactor

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I feel for them too, people overlook Iraq but honestly Iraqi's have gone through a hard time, for a very prolonged period. It is kind of like an Afghanistan of the Middle East. I hope we don't see a new ISIS. I think key for Iraq is relations with GCC and Egypt. The rest of Arab nations cannot offer much from economic and political standpoint. US is more interested in Kurdish defacto state. All these foreign forces need to withdraw from Iraq and Syria for Iraq to experience change.

I’ll be honest and frank don’t expect much from GCC and other Arab states. Their morally decayed, the people might have feelings but leadership is dead.
 

drmeson

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Lol a Israeli Bombed Palestianian refugee is posting anti crap from Israeli propaganda haaretz news.

These guys get JDAMS and Delilahs from IAF F-16s daily but they will still not stop spewing fake BS and hatred against Iran out of jealousy. Like I said before I will rather trust my iraqi shiite or syrian, ,lebanese, yemeni, Afghan brothers before these Palestinians bomb targets. Damn the Mashadi Mullahs who give weapons and money to these traitors and then they thank us in their fake tones. We should do what others do for them from entire islamic nation. NOTHING !

Here is the news guys, we are here for 4000 years and we plan on staying 4000 more at least. No power in this world can undo us.
I think the end game is the balkanization of Iraq along ethnic and religious fault lines.

A divided Iraq with allegiances to different global and regional powers serves the long term interest of the subjection of the Iraqi nation. It serves American, Israeli, Iranian, Saudi, Egyptian, Turkish interests.

Unfortunately, that trajectory is already set and inevitable. The Iraqis have been scarred too deep to reconcile.

if anyone thinks Iraq wont be divided then they are a fool. I said the same even before Saddam got his neck stretched and ppl did not believe me that Kurdistan will be gone out of baghdads control.

I am an ethnic azeri turk but I feel happy when I see free Kurdistan cut out of the ottoman illegitimate child fake state. I know Kurdistan is no friend of Iran but they are proud Iranic people and they have got their area secured.

We will see shiite iraq's segregation further in coming years.
 
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