Israel has kept Iranian militias and the Lebanese Hezbollah from northern Jordanian borders in Daraa and thwarted their efforts to threaten Jordan’s national security after setting conditions on the Syrian regime to allow it to advance. The Israeli agreement with the Assad regime under Russian patronage thus served the interests of Jordan.
As soon as the crisis in Jordan ended and Syrian refugees returned to their homes in Daraa, protests broke out in south of Iraq demanding basic services such as drinking water and electricity as a result of Iran cutting off electricity in the south and decreasing its share of electricity.
Protests in Iraq
In principle, the protesters’ demands in South Iraq expanded on legitimate grounds. People set their tents in hot climate with temperatures approaching 50°C after they ran out of patience due to some official’s negligence in the area which produces most of Iraq’s revenues.
What people complain about in southern and central provinces such as in Basra, Muthanna, Najaf and Karbala is what all Iraqi provinces complain of: rampant corruption in most governmental institutions and among most of the political classes. This has impacted the citizens’ livelihood as they suffer from unemployment and lack of services and from the spread of financial crimes like bribery and extortion.
The Iraqi government can control the protests, now raging for the second consecutive week, by dispatching a governmental delegation to meet with tribal elders to control the angry youths and by launching an official investigation with officials in service agencies such as water and electricity.
It could also implement measures such as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s allocation of $3 billion for development projects in Basra.
But in order to reassure people that these demands will be met, it is necessary to accelerate the formation of the coalition government and for the parliament to begin convening because this vacuum is one of the main reasons behind this chaos.
When contemplating about a country as big as Iraq, with its rich natural and human resources, one wonders how since 2003 (the date of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime) the country has not been able to stand on its feet and has become a bad model of governance. The Iraqi model shows the negative consequences when opportunistic foreign parties interfere in a country’s affairs and when there is also internal collusion.
The majority of citizens in areas where protests are taking place today are Shiites who are against Iranian presence in their country.Amal Abdulaziz Al-Hazani
Even though the Arab region was harmed economically and politically after the revolutions of 2011 and later on, most countries which witnessed popular protests have been trying to bounce back and recover from the setbacks.
As for the countries which are suffering from Iranian interference, they are still in dire situation before and after the revolutions and they are: Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Whenever Iran infiltrates a country, the latter becomes plagued by administrative and political corruption and turns into an incubator of terrorism. Iraq remains the most accessible country for Iran to foment crises, as it did in Mosul four years ago and enabled ISIS to occupy it thus preoccupying the central government and countries with the war against ISIS ever since. Today it is fomenting problems in the south to spread chaos, drag out the crisis and threaten neighboring countries.
Iran facing crises
Iran is set to go through some difficult days in November, since US President Donald Trump promised to target Iran’s oil trade, finding alternatives to Iranian oil to ensure the availability of energy supplies around that period. Iran has been in this cycle of difficulties ever since President Trump announced withdrawing from the nuclear agreement, and it expects an economic crisis that will heighten the intensity of popular anger, which has been going on since December.
Iran is trying to show off its achievements and power in the region, imposing itself as a regional power that is not easily besieged because of US sanctions. Iran is reminding the Trump administration that it has the upper hand in Iraq – many believe that what’s happening there is a result of the American invasion – not just through the presence of the Iranian revolutionary guards but also through Iraqi militias affiliated with Iran such as the Popular Mobilization Forces, Iraqi Hezbollah, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and others as well as with political parties whose reference is Iran.
Iran can throw the Iraqi card in the face of Washington and inflame the south of Iraq through war and chaos. Iran can also place whoever it wants among the protestors, and it can threaten oil fields and refineries as well as the borders of Iraq with neighboring countries.
Nevertheless, the soon-to-be formed government, as well as the House of Representative chosen by the people, has the moral and national responsibility to solidify comprehensive development in all governorates and expose the corrupt. We cannot give in to Iranian influence in order to ease things on the government and the parliament. Iraq is a large country, and the majority of citizens in areas where protests are taking place today are Shiites who are against Iranian presence in their country and these people have influence, voices and demands.
The government did not have to wait for the people to take to the streets in such burning heat to offer the $3 billion so that other provinces won’t follow. If the Iraqis wish to revive their country after these decades of crises, they must stand up against sectarian practices, corrupt politicians and the agents of Iran, because they are the ones disrupting the supply of electricity and water and leading to unemployment and bad infrastructure.
The article is also available in Arabic.
Amal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani is a professor at King Saudi University and a writer for al-Sharq al-Awsat. She tweets @Alhazzani_Amal.