An unusual summer at southern Iraq, hot weather as if in hell, few hours of electricity a day after Iran had cut it off, and a large state without a government, except that the Iraqi summer season is ripe for problems, and it has a history in igniting chaos, invasion and revolutions.
The distance between the cities of Najaf and Basra is far, more than 400 kilometers, and yet the chaos has reached the two cities. Basra specifically is suffering more than the rest of the Iraqi cities. Seems there is an intention to escalate in the south to weaken the central government and threaten the region. Iraq as a whole, not only Basra, is struggling to get out of the impact of two turbulent phases. Saddam’s rule which was a period of wars and crises for 25 years. Then there is the invasion stage and what came after it, where the country became a chaos. Then we saw it trying to recover slowly with Haider al-Abadi rule.
Basra’s chaos was the normal result for the weak central government. The government in Baghdad is weak and cannot play its role, as there are many partners in authority; militias, authorities and parties and with the US-Iranian conflict which became obvious to everyone. There is no doubt that Iran is the biggest challenge for Iraq to be independent and successful. The regime in Tehran considers Iraq as a natural geographical, sectarian extension for it.
During the past few years, it succeeded in creating entities that had weakened Baghdad with a parallel authority, like the popular mobilization units, unfair bilateral agreements, using oil revenues to finance its operations, seeking to have full control by imposing a government that belongs to it. Tehran did not succeed completely but it managed to hinder the authority in Baghdad, until it became incapable of providing enough electricity, to get the militias that imposes control over cities out, to provide jobs and even incapable to stop the intervention of Iran and its militias in the southern Iraq affairs.
Iraq, along with Kuwait and Iran, is the northern Gulf, a potentially permanent area of tension as a result of the three forces sharing its land and water borders, in addition to a large US military presence on land and sea, within a complex military balance in this sensitive regionAbdulrahman al-Rashed
It became more complicated since the end of the elections, as there is a crisis because of the vacuum in authority, which has doubled the suffering. The government almost became disabled waiting for a Prime Minister to be named and who would join the coalition amid a party dispute that may exacerbate the period of the power vacuum, and extends the country’s crises. This is what is happening in the internal affairs.
Iraq, along with Kuwait and Iran, is the northern Gulf, a potentially permanent area of tension as a result of the three forces sharing its land and water borders, in addition to a large US military presence on land and sea, within a complex military balance in this sensitive region
Opening several fronts
Iran wants to do the same as it did in Lebanon and Yemen, opening several fronts to weaken its adversaries and provoke the international community. The militias in south Iraq are prepared by the Revolutionary Guards to be like Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthi in Yemen; an advanced battalion fighting on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
We see signs of a crisis that would fill the Gulf region with chaos and ignite battles inside Iraq and with its neighbors. Later, we would hear Tehran saying that it is ready to mediate to stop the fighting, if its conditions are accepted in return. Due to increasing US pressure, the Iranian authorities are trying to make everyone pay and fail Trump’s administration plan to economically and politically straighten Iran to force it to sign a nuclear agreement with better conditions that the previous one.
South Iraq might be the new field for the Iranian regime, after it had lost a lot in the Syrian war due to the Israeli attacks against its forces and militias, and the Russian position which has changed against it.
This article is also available in Arabic.
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.