20 November 2017
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Iraq Now an Iranian Colony

Sunday, 29 October 2017 16:02

The recent takeover of Kirkuk by the Iranian backed militias and Iraqi army clearly illustrates that now Iran is calling the shots in every important decision of Iraq. This whole operation and withdrawal of PUK Peshmerga, without resistance to advancing Iraqi forces was planned by Iran Quds force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani. The extent of involvement by the Iraq Prime Minister’s office in this whole episode is still unclear, but one thing is certain -- decisions were made in Tehran and Baghdad.

Geopolitical observers are now criticizing Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, for being too quick to resort to force against Kurds at the behest of Iran rather than engaging in talks with Erbil, who had helped Baghdad in the fight against ISIS. There are a number of ways in which Iran gains from this current crisis. Not only does the conflict undermine Kurdish unity, it also boosts the role of Iranian backed Shia militias such as Hashid al-Shaabi in Iraq and makes them look like guardians of national unity rather than sectarian actors. But as a nation, Iraq is at loss, as it has sparked anger against the federal government among its sizeable Kurdish minority.

The fall of Kirkuk clearly showcases the extent to which Iraq today is an Iranian controlled territory. And it demonstrates the currently unparalleled efficacy of the Iranian methods of revolutionary and political warfare, as used by Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) throughout the Arab world to promote Iran geopolitical interests. Iran’s influence in Iraq is not just ascendant, but diverse extending to almost every walk of life. Let’s have a look at various areas where Iran is dominating the Iraqi arena.

Politics- During Saddam Hussein’s rule, Iran granted asylum to a number of Iraqi opposition parties and part of its ability to greatly affect Iraqi political theatre today is linked to the fact that the individuals comprising a significant portion of the Iraqi political map formerly resided in Iran. Politically, Iran has a large number of allies in Iraq’s Parliament who can help secure its goals. Even the most senior Iraqi cabinet officials take instructions from Iran’s leadership.

Military- Tehran has been the principal backer of mainly Shiite Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) formed to fight the Islamic State and now formally absorbed into the Iraqi military. Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRCG) overseas arm.  The Quds Force provides the bulk of logistical support and advice to Popular Mobilisation Forces. In turn, Iran uses the PMF to exert military leverage over the Iraqi government to wrestle power on behalf of Iran, much like Hezbollah did in Lebanon.

Economy- Trade between these two nations is primarily unidirectional in favour of Iran.  Years of sanction and internal conflicts have rendered Iraq dependent on Iranian imports. The only place outside Iran where the Iranian currency the “Rial” is used as a medium of exchange is southern Iraq. Iran is dumping cheap, subsidized food products and consumer goods into Iraqi markets and is undercutting its neighbour’s agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

Natural Resources- Iran’s damming and diversion of rivers feeding the Shatt al-Arab waterway has greatly undermined the Iraqi agriculture sector in the south and hindered efforts to revive Iraq’s marshlands. Iran has withheld water flows of the Kalal River, which flows into Wasit province, and of the Karun and Karkha rivers, which flow into Basra province.

Religion- Iran has been pursuing a long-term strategy to expand its religious authority in Iraq in many ways. For example they use financial and political leverage to ensure the primacy of clerics trained in the Iranian seminary of Qom and loyal to the Iranian ideology, over clerics trained in the relatively non-political tradition of the Najaf seminary. Then, by reconstructing the Shiite shrines in Iraq, they consequently take control of their management in the long run. Lastly, they take control of pilgrimages in Iraq’s shrine cities, notably the Arbaeen procession, which attracts millions of devotees every year to Karbala.

Despite this great degree of Iranian influence on the Iraqi nation still there is a ray of hope. The current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has the potential to be pulled out of Iran’s influence and act as an independent figure. This is especially true as he has stood in the face of Iran’s pressures on some occasions.

Even so, al-Abadi government officials must prove their allegiance to the Iraqi people and not to the Iranian regime. For example, the Iraqi judiciary is also heavily under Tehran’s influence. This was seen specifically in the country’s Supreme Court last October when they blocked al-Abadi’s judicial reform package. Efforts must clean up the judiciary and make it independent.

Current Iraqi leadership should also work to bridge the gulf with its Sunni and Kurdish minorities by establishing an equal method of governance across the country. Not all Iraqi Shiites are pro-Iranian puppets in fact, many are fervently nationalistic. Prime Minister Abadi can tap into Iraqi nationalism to combat further sectarian division. 

Source: NRT

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