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Iraq deal to buy Iranian diesel is fuel for thought

Tehran is controlling the government in Iraq and exploiting its resources on all levels.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

Last year, the Iraqi government was paying huge sums to Iran – in U.S. dollars. This came at a time when Iran was barred from conducting deals in the currency, amid international sanctions on its oil sales.

So why did the Iraqis pay Iran? At the beginning, Nouri al-Maliki’s government said the money was for Iranian weapons. When Washington pointed out that this was a violation of the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions, Iraq disputed its previous statement saying that the money was for mutual services deals.

It later turned out that Tehran was using Iraqi government money to fund its military activities in the region, mainly in Syria.

Iranian hegemony

The government of Iraq’s current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi does not seem to be able to escape the Iranian hegemony, especially given that Tehran has become more powerful, claiming that it is there to fight ISIS. Iranian officials have claimed that, if it wasn’t for their help, Baghdad would have fallen in the hands of the terrorist group.

Iran is now exploiting the Iraqi funds to finance its needs, taking advantage of its security and political influence.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

What is even more interesting is that Iraq, the second-largest crude oil producer, started to import oil from Iran! The latter has announced that it began exporting diesel to the Iraqi market. Iraq is buying petroleum products from Iran with the Iranian Rial, instead of the commonly-used U.S. dollars in the oil market. This clearly shows that Iran is taking advantage of Iraq, without taking into account that Iraqis are still enduring a severe financial crisis as a result of the looting practiced by Maliki’s government of eight years. Iran is now exploiting the Iraqi funds to finance its needs, taking advantage of its security and political influence.

Russian air bridge

Abadi’s government, which was considered to be less dependent on Iran, turned out to be as weak as the previous Maliki government. It accepted the request of Iran, and allowed a Russian air bridge to cross Iraqi airspace to transport weapons to Syria, thus flouting U.S. objections.

The irony is that the Americans are the ones leading the war against ISIS and the armed Iraqi opposition forces in Baghdad. However, Iraqis couldn’t return the favor to the U.S. through a simple decision to prevent the Russian Air Force from crossing the Iraqi airspace! This shows the extent of Iran’s influence on Baghdad, which certainly is behind Abadi’s decision to accept the Iranian-Russian request.

Tehran is controlling the government in Iraq and exploiting its resources on all levels.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

In light of the growing influence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Iranian dominance in Baghdad will increase. Tehran is controlling the government in Iraq and exploiting its resources on all levels. And Iran is taking advantage of the existing state of affairs in Iraq to impose its regional influence. In the past, Iranians were keen to convince the Americans that they are partners in Iraq, and that they endeavor to ensure the safety of American facilities and centers. However, the U.S. has sacrificed more than 4,000 American soldiers in Iraq, while Iran is the one that took over the leadership and resources.

Iran is now controlling the majority of the political parties and militias in Iraq, in addition to the country’s resources and shared water. But the Iraqis will certainly revolt against the Iranian occupation of today. There is a big difference between what Iran is doing today and the American occupation, which aimed to get rid of Saddam’s regime and introduce democracy.

Iraqi people are paying a heavy price in blood, dollars and dignity. Therefore, I think that the Iraq-Iran clash is unavoidable, especially given that the military presence of the Revolutionary Guards on Iraqi territories is increasing in number and influence.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former 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.

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