MIDDLE EAST

Will Iran invade Iraq?

The recent developments in Iraq sent shockwaves throughout the world because it was unforeseen that anyone could rival Iraqi forces –trained with most modern weapons –when it comes to protecting the government. But when Nuri al-Maliki’s forces in Mosul dissolved like salt within hours, no one believed how weak the military command was until other cities, military bases and government installations were seized.

Events once again proved that the problem lies with Nuri al-Maliki’s leadership. He is an ignorant and authoritarian prime minister who is in control of all jurisdictions. He is a man who knows nothing about management and at the same time he deprives his ministers of their jurisdictions. One of his current follies is that he’s attacking his rivals and provoking them to collectively act against him. This may lead to a bigger war and to the collapse of the entire regime. This is where Iran’s role as protector of the Iraqi regime becomes apparent. Is Iran really a protector or is it just a greedy country that has aims in the world’s second most oil-rich country? We must not believe sectarian suggestions that Iran will support Maliki’s government due to the Shiite ties. Iran’s disagreement with Shiite Azerbaijan has prevailed for years while its relations with Sunni Turkey are flourishing.

Relations between Iraq and Iran have been competitive for centuries, regardless of who was in power

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Relations between Iraq and Iran have been competitive for centuries, regardless of who was in power. They agreed for a while during the 1950s, within the context of the Baghdad Alliance which included Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Britain, to confront the rise of communism. Then they disagreed and the Shah subjugated Iraq during a dispute over the Shatt al-Arab river. Relations deteriorated more after Khomeini took power and they became even worse due to Saddam Hussein’s era, who attempted to alter the balance of power in the region. Even during Maliki’s term, and despite his special relationship with Tehran, Iran took over border posts and robbed plenty of Iraq’s oil in the south. One can still hear Iranian artillery shelling the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan under the excuse of targeting the Iranian-Kurdish opposition.

Iran will intervene

Considering recent developments, it’s certain that Iran will intervene to support the Iraqi regime. But how large will the intervention be and what are Iran’s real intentions? It’s unlikely that we will see Iranian tanks in Baghdad’s streets - unless in the case of the total collapse of the state. Also, Iraq - unlike Syria - is a vital country for the industrial world since it produces oil. Thus it will not be easy to alter realties on the ground or at the regional level without bringing bigger forces into the struggle.

What’s certain is that Iran rushed to support Maliki since the first day of Mosul’s collapse. Its militias are participating in leading the fight. This raises more questions and speculations: Does Iran have the capacity required to go on? Will it bear the financial burden and the cost to human lives on two fronts – Iraq and Syria? This firstly depends on the intra-Iraq struggle. Secondly it depends on the intentions of the Iranian command and on whether it sees in chaos across the borders a chance to impose its control especially as the Republican Guards’ leadership has a great desire to expand. In my opinion, this will incite Iraqis of all sects and will set the struggle between the two countries on its old path.

We must remember that Iraq’s future has remained suspended since 22 years ago, after its defeat in Kuwait and after its power was shattered, and it was suspended again after U.S. troops withdrew. Handing governance to one group amidst a disturbed political situation would have inevitably brought chaos, the kind of chaos we see today. The situation remains unbalanced and we don’t know how events will develop. We are now witnessing another temporary chapter in the story of Iraq. If Iran becomes involved, either via supporting Iraq or occupying it, there will be a major security fallout in the region and the struggle will expand to include the Arab Gulf, Israel and Turkey.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 16, 2014.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

 

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Last Update: Monday, 16 June 2014 KSA 12:49 - GMT 09:49
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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