Commenting on the ongoing protest movement in Iran, a well-known Iraqi writer and journalist posted on his Facebook page a picture of diarrhea treatment pills and wrote the following brief commentary: “There is a great demand for this treatment in the Green Zone. It is said that men are on edge, carefully following developments in the region.”
The Green Zone is the closed and heavily fortified part of Baghdad. The ruling political class controls this region that Saddam Hussein and his entourage once occupied. Saddam even built huge mansions and palaces here that his successors, the rulers of the day, squabble with each other to live in.
This area is popularly called the ‘arrogant zone,’ a phrase that expresses the hatred of the Iraqis, or at least their indignation towards the people of this region as it has become emblematic of the stolen wealth of the Iraqi people on a large-scale, a claim that even the rulers do not deny.
Many Iraqi citizens are outraged by the frequent appearance of IRGC chief in Iraq and view it as a violation of their national pride and dignityAdnan Hussein
Iraq infested with Iran’s minions
The sarcastic post immediately received hundreds of likes and comments. Many Iraqis believe that majority of the powerful political class in the country is either openly working for Iran is silently strengthening its growing political, military, and economic clout in the country.
This trend is reflected in various facets of Iraqi life and even statements of Iranian military and civilian leaders point to their open interference in Iraq as well as Lebanon, Syria and Yemen as if they are their legitimate sphere of influence.
This fact is further reinforced by the frequent appearance of the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, General Qasem Soleimani, on the war fronts against ISIS and within the Green Zone, comfortably interacting with the leaders of the Iraqi military forces, even as many Iraqi citizens are outraged by his presence and view it as a violation of their national pride and dignity.
ANALYSIS: How Iran has its eyes set on Iraq oil
Iraqis have started taking keen interest in social media and in public life, in the wake of the Iranian protests since their commencement. The protests have received the support of Iraqi journalists, commentators and prominent activists, many of whom have been participating in protests within Iraq – demanding political reform, improved public services, end to administrative and financial corruption on an almost weekly basis since mid-2015 in Baghdad and across several cities having Shiite majority.
The comments in social media outlets and posters in the streets reflect an Iraqi desire for change in Iran so that the latter eases its grip over Iraq. The commentators and social media users have been particularly keen on reflecting upon the slogans raised by Iranian protesters that seek internal reforms and highlight the economic problems. Many writers, commentators, and bloggers have taken a stand against this public position. These are mostly members of the Shiite political forces in power.
It is noteworthy that these writers, along with prominent Shiite politicians, remained silent in the first two days of the protest and did not disclose their position on the Iranian protest movement, until Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei accused the protesters of being “agents” of foreign powers. Thereafter, Iranian loyalists in Iraq started echoing the same accusation against Iranian protesters.
The double standard
For their part, Iraqi writers, commentators, and activists who harbor sympathy towards the Iranian movement drew attention to the position of the Shiite political forces and their double standards. They point out that the position of Iraqi Shiite Islamists which was once in favor of the Bahraini Shiite opposition now opposes protest movement in Iran.
This change of heart has occurred due to their bias toward the Iranian regime even though the regime does not care about the interests of the Shiites. Several factors influence the position of pro-Iranian Iraqis.
The most important of them being that any weakness in the power of the Iranian regime would reduce its influence in Iraq and weaken the hegemony of the Shiite political forces in Iran over political, economic and social life, which could positively affect the desired political reform process along with the fight against administrative and financial corruption that has poisoned the lives of Iraqis for several years.
On the other hand, there is fear that Tehran will take a hard line in its foreign policy after the recent protests, which exposes the internal fragility of the regime there. This type of regime often chooses to export its crises abroad, instead of looking for solutions for its internal problems. Even Saddam’s regime did this several times and the result was that he dug his own grave, leaving Iraq in total ruin and a political class that did nothing but worsen the situation.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Adnan Hussein is the executive editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper and head of the National Union of Iraqi journalists. Previously, he has held the position of Managing Editor in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets under the handle @adnanhussein.