Return of an international armed conflict over Iraq
Iran’s threat in Iraq is not just for the neighboring Gulf countries but rather a threat against Iraqis first
The new US President Donald Trump criticized his predecessor Barack Obama several times. He said that Obama has left Iraq an easy target for the Iranians, squandering $3 trillion efforts deployed by the US to build an allied Iraq.
The Iranian authorities sent Trump indirect threatening messages instead of reassuring ones. They ordered one of their many militias in Iraq, al-Nujaba movement, to fire missiles in order to show its strength. Al-Nujaba is one of the militias that can target neighboring countries and is similar to the Yemeni Houthis that are also used by Iran to bomb Saudi Arabia with missiles financed by them.
Iran’s threat in Iraq is not just for the neighboring Gulf countries but rather a threat against Iraqis first and then against the surrounding countries.
Iran’s main objective is to seize Iraq, which is the second-richest country in the region, to finance its economic and military needs. During the past six years, Iran has converted Iraq into an Iranian military base, from which it wages its wars in Syria, and threatens Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
The leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards brags about not costing the Iranian treasury any money on foreign military activities in Syria and Iraq, because it depends on the Iraqi treasury that has become its financial portfolio and under the control of pro-Iranian groups after marginalizing the authorities of current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Since a number of the Trump administration figures had previously served in Iraq, they know the real role of the Iranian regime there. They have expressed in the past their anger at Obama’s policy because he has left Iraq an easy prey for Iran. What can we expect from Trump’ administration regarding the Iranians in Baghdad?
The question is not about what Trump can do to stop Iran’s takeover of Iraq but what the countries of the region can offer to support the national forces thereAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Limiting Iran’s control
It is quite unlikely for this administration to send forces to Iraq but it will take steps to limiting Iran’s control. It will most likely consider that the Iraqi government is responsible and in control and will give it tough choices.
It will most likely boost the role of the allied forces, like the Kurds for example, to set a balance facing the pro-Iranian forces. It will also support the national Shiite and Sunni opposition forces to demand the return of the Civil State project that was neglected by the Obama administration.
The question is not about what Trump can do to stop Iran’s takeover of Iraq, but what the countries of the region can offer to support the national forces there. Terrible failures took place after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003; the countries of the region rejected the US call to cooperate in order to build an Iraqi national regime.
When the countries of the region, including the Gulf, left Iraq, Iran seized the favorable opportunity to be the only regional power that has offered to cooperate with the Americans in the management of the new Iraq. At the same time, in cooperation with the Assad regime in Syria, Iran was supporting what was called the Iraqi resistance and al-Qaeda to attack the US military presence and get it out of Iran.
Collaboration and conspiracy
Tehran succeeded in its dual collaboration and conspiracy project, especially after the arrival of Obama who found that Iran has influence in Iraq and hence chose to communicate with the Iranians rather than confront them.
The current US leadership in the White House along with the defense and intelligence authorities, which have already been in Iraq, know that Iran was behind the war on its troops in Iraq, including al-Qaeda.
These authorities are aware of Iran’s approach in managing its battles using local forces as proxies, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Fath al-Islam in Lebanon, a number of al-Qaeda sub-branches in Syria and Iraq, as well as the Houthis in Yemen.
Thus, I guess that the confrontation is now more likely than ever in Iraq and elsewhere. It is the expected result after Obama’s policy that allowed the Iranian regime to expand in the region and threaten the existence of the moderate countries including Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf. It is now threatening American interests as well as international peace.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on February 03 2017.
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. He tweets @aalrashed.