Hossein Shariatmadari, one of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representatives, and the head of Iran’s hardline Kayhan newspaper, called on Iraqis to “occupy the US embassy like the Iranians did in 1979,” following major protests that gripped Baghdad in recent days.
In an editorial that featured in the newspaper on Saturday, Shariatmadari reiterated accusations by top Iranian officials claiming that the protests were instigated “by America and foreign elements.”
Occupying the US embassy in Tehran has had “many achievements” for Iran, he wrote, adding: “Why should Iraq’s revolutionary youth deprive their country of such achievements?”
Supporters of the founder of the Islamic Republic and former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini attacked and occupied the US embassy in Tehran in November of 1979, less than a year after the Islamic revolution in Iran.
US diplomats and embassy staff were held hostage for 444 days in an incident, which kick-started US sanctions against Iran.
On Friday, a senior Iranian cleric accused the US and Israel of inciting unrest in Iraq to disrupt Iranian pilgrims from participating in the Shia Arbaeen pilgrimage held in Iraq, according to the Tasnim news agency.
“The enemy is now determined against the Islamic nation, America and Zionism ... are targeting the Arbaeen and Iraq, and causing trouble because it is hard for them to accept the presence of millions [of pilgrims] in Karbala,” Tasnim reported Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani as saying.
The protests in Iraq were sparked by chronic unemployment and poor public services, but many protesters voiced their discontent with Iran’s influence in Iraq.
Protestors have reportedly been chanting slogans against Iran for supporting Shia militias and groups who have a stranglehold on Iraq’s politics.
“Foreign elements’ presence is very clear in the latest unrest in Iraq,” Shariatmadari insisted, adding that “the citizens [Iraqis] should occupy the [US] embassy because it is a spy den.”
Khamenei’s representative said the foreign elements “directed the protests against the alliance between the Iraqi and Iranian governments.”
“At the beginning, they [protesters] went out under the pretext of deteriorating living conditions, then they repeated slogans against Iran and the Popular Mobilization Movement.”
Many of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) militias are loyal to Iran, and the PMU’s deputy commander Jamal Jaafar al-Ibrahimi – known by his nom de guerre Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes – is a key Iranian ally. Mohandes is also the leader of Katai’b Hezbollah, the terrorist organization accused of attacking Saudi Arabian oil pipelines in May.
On Thursday, Iraq’s foreign ministry summoned Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad to denounce his statement threatening that Tehran would retaliate against an American attack anywhere in the world, including in Iraq.
The ministry statement said Iraqi official Abdul-Karim Hashem told Iran’s envoy, Iraj Masjedi, that American troops are in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government.
Iraqi protesters have pressed on with angry anti-government rallies in the capital and across several provinces for a fifth day on Saturday, setting government offices on fire and ignoring appeals for calm from political and religious leaders.
The violent deadlock presented the conflict-scarred nation with its most serious challenge since the defeat of ISIS two years ago and deepened the political crisis of a country still struggling with the legacy of multiple, unfinished wars since the US invasion in 2003.SHOW MORE