Iraqi citizens living in Basra have every right to protest against the dire situation in the city. They have been demanding their basic amenities and rights that are essential for living a normal life.
What is happening there is primarily the fault of Iraqi politicians, who have been more loyal to Iran than Iraq.
In Basra, two developments have coincided. The first one relates to peaceful protests against corruption and that also denounced Iranian interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.
The second one are organized operations that seem more than just a spontaneous outbreak, like the burning of the Iranian consulate, breaking into the headquarters of the Popular Mobilization militias, burning down the house of Iraqi communications minister, an official in Badr organization, and raiding the West Qurna 2 oilfield along with holding few workers hostage.
If Iraq gets rid of Iranian influence, it will greatly impact Iran’s historical dream to reach the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria and LebanonAbdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi
The occurrence of the general protests is understandable, given the exceptional circumstances taking place in Basra and Iraq. However, the other developments require planning and organizing and expertise, which pro-Iran Iraqi politicians, who are disgruntled at this stage, have.
They see the prospects of government formation in Iraq significantly favoring their opponents, so they have become aware of their inability (along with Iran’s) to manipulate political alliances through promises and threats.
Their “carrot and stick” approach has failed to create imbalances to help them form the next government. They also have the motive and the desire to sabotage the political process and defer the formation of the government through any means just to gain time.
Organized groups’ infiltration of protestors is a well-known occurrence. This has happened in Arab countries that faced the so-called “Arab Spring” movement. The Muslim Brotherhood conducted terrorist attacks on police headquarters and burnt down buildings and institutions from behind the veil of demonstrations.
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Meanwhile, some opposing parties in the political process in Iraq belong to the Shiite Islamist groups and are backed by the Iranian regime for decades. Iraq is considered top on the list of the Iranian regime’s plans for expansion and influence, which the regime’s leaders often talk about.
What is happening in Iraq now is part of a competition of the Iranian regime with the US. There is also Saudi Arabia’s and Arab states’ support of Iraqi people and their state in order to regain independence and sovereignty on their territory.
If Iraq gets rid of this Iranian influence, it will greatly impact Iran’s historical dream to reach the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said in one of his interviews that the aspirations of the ideologues cannot be politically entertained.
The expansion of Iran and the Shiite crescent in these three Arab countries is very difficult, as it faces harsh international and regional challenges, including the US and Israeli rejection and the decisive Arab opposition of such sectarian and imperial expansion.
Religion and politics
Religious figures’ involvement in politics is rejected in principle, and history has proved the major harm caused by such an involvement to both religion and politics. There is a major controversy among the Shiite sect around the world concerning this issue.
There are two main parties to this controversy. One of them is represented by the Iranian regime, as it is the main representative of Shiite political Islam, which is based on the Vilayat-e-Faqih doctrine coined by Khomeini when he sought to spread this weak theory among the Shiite sect.
Through this doctrine he managed to stage a coup against the Shah, thus it became a theory that enabled him and his movement to gain power in an oil rich country. This movement is facing another movement which is much larger and is the traditional Shiite movement which rejects involvement in politics and which supports the modern nation state and stability and that opposes terrorism and chaos.
Iraq’s Sayyid Ali al-Sistani is one of the main representatives of this orientation in Iraq, which supports the Sairoon Alliance made up of Shiite political Islam movements and secular movements and which have the interest of Iraq in common.
The Shiite political Islam based on the theory of Khomeini’s Vilayat-e-Faqih adopted two strategies to promote its mission of “exporting the revolution”. The first one was to engage in direct war with Iraq, wherein Iran had to drink the poison at the end as Khomeini famously said back then.
The second strategy is to establish and organize militias inside Arab countries. Thus, they have benefited from the Lebanese Hezbollah and appointed it to other roles in and outside Lebanon.
Khomeini supported the Houthi militia and other militias inside Iraq especially after 2003, most of which were gathered under the popular mobilization. This is in addition to making strong alliances with brutal minorities such as the ruling Alawite minority in Syria, along with benefiting from Sunni Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda or ISIS.
Iran losing ground
This deep disagreement is an ideological one. Its clear manifestation in Iraq, and in Basra in particular where most of Iran’s supporters are, indicate the severity of this disagreement and shows the extent of its influence, along with other factors, on Iraq’s present and future.
Differentiating between the representatives of each movement facilitates knowing who is responsible for peaceful demonstrations and who is responsible for violence. The peace experts excel in peace while experts in killing, destruction and criminal behavior excel in their domain.
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Internationally, the Iranian regime is losing on most fronts. Confronting a country like the US and its power is not easy. When it comes to Trump’s powerful administration and its firm resolve to confront the Iranian regime, slogans and fundamentalist alliances with the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar and Turkey are worthless and are closer to the hangman's knot that exerts unprecedented pressure on the regime. Ideological regimes become fiercer before falling and collapsing.
The national Iraqi movement has more presence in Iraq now and it has become more capable of facing movements with a pro-Iranian orientation. It has become more powerful while Iranian followers in Iraq have become weaker.
The US, Gulf and Arab support of an independent Iraq with complete sovereignty over its entire territory has greatly changed the scene in Iraq in recent years in favor of the Iraqi state and its people.
In the end, countries that support the states’ stability in the region win against states that support chaos and destruction. Reality is the best witness to that.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdullah bin Bijad al-Otaibi is a Saudi writer and researcher. He is a member of the board of advisors at Al-Mesbar Studies and Research Center. He tweets under @abdullahbjad.