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Al-Kadhimi and understanding the Iranian message

Khairallah Khairallah

Published: Updated:

Esmail Ghani, commander of the Quds Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, came to Baghdad to ask Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi whether he clearly understood the message behind his attempted assassination.

Al-Kadhimi is supposed to comprehend that the "Islamic Republic" now needs the Iraqi bargaining chip more than ever, just a few days before the resumption of negotiations in Vienna on its nuclear program.

Al-Kadhimi is supposed to understand that it is impermissible for the elections to change anything in Iraq, and that the fate of this country, since 2003, is to merely be a satellite in Iranian orbit. It would be unimaginable to permit Iraq to escape Iranian hegemony. Ghani arrived in Iraq to remind all those concerned that the Islamic Republic has a long arm and is prepared to exhaust all available means to ensure that Iraq cannot stand as Iraq, with Iran merely a neighboring country with whom it enjoys good relations within the limits of respect for sovereignty… minimal as it may be.

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The failed attempt to assassinate Mustafa al-Kadhimi used explosives-laden drones launched from a location that has become known to all, no more than 12 kilometers from his residence. Remarkably, the Iraqi Prime Minister asserted that he knew who was behind the assassination attempt, which he appears to have miraculously survived thanks to Iraqi security services’ success in disabling two of the three drones bound for his home.

From now on, it may be beneficial to contemplate what comes after the assassination attempt of al-Kadhimi, who has indeed emerged as a genuine Iraqi national figure after it became clear that he was able to impose a political direction that is based on some sort of balance in Iraq’s relations with its neighbors. Most important of all, his government was able to hold parliamentary elections last October. These elections spawned results unfavorable to Iran, after its militias lost many seats to the Sadrist bloc led by Muqtada al-Sadr. Unquestionably, the Islamic Republic did not like the alliance between Muqtada al-Sadr and al-Kadhimi, which could lead to the latter’s reinstatement as prime minister.

The assassination attempt was the culmination of a continual escalation by Iran-backed parties and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militia since the announcement of the election results. In a nutshell, Iran only likes Iraqi democracy when the former’s parties control the latter’s parliament; whereas this democracy becomes an abomination when a large bloc is formed that seeks, albeit in its own way, the interests of Iraq.

Iran, which is currently facing economic difficulties of an unprecedented magnitude, is looking to flex its muscles. Hence, we find Iran stoking escalation in Lebanon through the tools at its disposal, which has led to a rift between Lebanon and the Gulf states. All that Iran wanted to prove through two Christian ministers in the Lebanese government (viz. the ministers of media and foreign affairs) is that Lebanon is at its disposal and that it controls every single detail in the country.

It is no secret that Iran is also fueling escalation in Yemen. Iran seems committed to continuing its attack to take over the city of Marib in order to complete the elements of the Houthi project in Yemen. It is also no secret that Iran is holding firmly onto its positions in Syria, after investing and spending billions of dollars to transform the nature and demographics of the country. This is not the time for Iraq to get away from it. Therefore, it was necessary to rein in Mustafa al-Kadhimi by making him understand that he has no room for maneuver and that he must fully comply with the Iranian direction; otherwise, drones await him.

The least that can be said is that the Iraqi political scene will grow more complicated in the coming days and weeks. Iraqi politicians, led by Mustafa al-Kadhimi, have no choice but to submit to whatever the Islamic Republic demands. Yes, this is not the time for Iraqis to think about Iraq’s future and how to overcome the economic and social crises weighing on their country; this is the time to consider how Iraq will join hands with Iran in confronting the US and convincing it that it has no choice but to accept the terms of the Islamic Republic at the Vienna negotiations.

Ultimately, the Iranian message seems to be also directed to the US Administration. How will the Administration react during the Vienna negotiations? Will it lift the sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic, whose own officials admit to the dire internal situation? Can the Administration truly lift the sanctions, even if it wanted to? Iranian officials admit that some 40 million Iranian citizens are in need of urgent financial assistance, while others propose bartering oil and gas with Pakistan in order for Iran to get rice!

Iran’s resounding fall in Iraq, which is reflected by its resort to violence to subjugate Mustafa al-Kadhimi, is simply testament to the absolute bankruptcy of its expansionist project on the backs of sectarian militias, whether in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, or Yemen. This project’s sole horizon is destruction, devastation, and misery. But until reality confirms this, countries such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen will endure grave suffering. What is happening in Lebanon is extremely dangerous. The country is threatened by outright collapse in light of complete bankruptcy and Hezbollah’s (i.e., Iran’s) domination.

Sooner or later, Iraq will find itself before one of two choices. The choice of rebuilding state institutions, at the forefront of which is the national army, which has demonstrated its cohesion during the past months, and the choice of being under the control of the Iran-affiliated PMF militias.

Much will depend on the success in imposing the results of the recent elections, results that Iran has proven to reject through its drones. Iran has its own concept of elections -- any elections. For Iran, elections are an opportunity to domesticate Iraq and confirm that it is nothing more than a bargaining chip in the hands of the Islamic Republic, which believes that it can pressure a US Administration that’s unable to lift the sanctions imposed on Tehran even if it wanted to… even if Iran commits all internationally outlawed acts, such as Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s assassination attempt!

This article was originally published in, and translated from, pan-Arab London-published newspaper al-Arab.

Read more:

The attempted assassination of Kadhimi and the Kuwait cell

Al-Kadhimi… The man with a dream too big for Iraq

US official Blinken calls Iraqi President Salih, condemns ‘terrorist’ attack on PM

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.