MIDDLE EAST: Iran’s stumble and its harsh relationship with Iraq 🇮🇷🇮🇶

by Sonia Harim

In the picture, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Iraqi President Barham Salih at a joint conference in 2018. Credits: Persia Digest

Iran has had a hidden hand on Iraq for decades, as it is tied to the Shiite Iraqi areas in the south of its neighbor.

Now that both countries are home to turmoil and revolts, those Iraqis who consider – with obvious proofs – that Iran has too much presence in Iraqi politics and militias have acted on it.

Some Shiite political alliances in Iraq have official ties with entities officially backed by Iran, who want to enhance the political power of the Muslim religious minority in Iraq. In order to achieve that, some militias intimidate and harm Iraqi civilians. Since the revolts in Iraq began, protesters attacked the Iranian consulate in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, Iraq, allegedly protesting, waving Iraqi flags, calling for Iran to stop interfering in Iraqi politics. Indeed, since the protests began in Baghdad and spread all over Iraq, Iraqis have put emphasis on their national identity beyond religious affiliation, seeking a better future, properly represented, for all citizens. That means, Iraq for the Iraqis, without foreign interference, in order to regain strength to bring the country to the stable state it deserves.

Now that Iran has reopened its Internet access, it has stated that the demonstrators had been “mercenaries” that came to bring instability and attempt a security breach against the country. Iran, unsurprisingly, claimed that such individuals were infiltrated by the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel in order to harm the government – probably, if such claims were confessed by the detainees, it could certainly have been so after torture.

Iran is not new to demonstrations due to corruption and rising prices, but apparently these reasons have been ignored by the government and the focus has been on “empowering” the country against its “enemies.” Meddling in Iraq’s politics and attributing all hardship to the political enemies seems, at times, to be the priority, even if hundreds of peaceful demonstrators have been killed in just one week.

The government proclaimed that it won’t allow further unrest after this week of isolation and violence, but, if the economic and political situation in Iran don’t improve, Iranians will get back at protesting – something they have done well for decades.

  • If Iraq could not solve its current political crisis, would Iran still be strong enough to have a Shiite power block in its government? Or will Iran give priority to its own crisis?
  • Will Iran, while still handling its heated situation, give priority to rise its influence on Iraq? Or will this last wave of demonstrations be another Iranian Revolution?

Suggested Readings:

Protesters in Iraq’s Nasiriyah fear Iran-backed armed groups” by Shelly Kittleson

“Three killed as Iraq protesters attack Iran consulate in Karbala” by Al Jazeera

“Is Iran trying to hijack Iraqi protesters’ demands?” by Omar Sattar

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