This only happens in a country which its state doesn’t have full powers or full sovereignty. What is meant here is that a person who is a national of a foreign State living in that country and has no official status is interfering with the domestic affairs of that country and it’s State. The “new” emerging Iraq after toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003 a striking vivid example.
In the Iraqi city of Najaf, the place where Shi'ite clerics from different countries prefer to live as it is the headquarters of the supreme authority of the Shiite community live an Iranian cleric named Ayatollah Mujtaba Khamenei. He has been representing Ali Khamenei in Najaf since 2015. As a religious leader, his role should have been restricted to the religious matters and collecting the Zakat for the supreme leader. Yet, ever since his arrival to Najaf, Mujtaba Khamenei has been promoting the political, doctrinal and intellectual ideology of the state of the Faqih, which is opposed by most of the major Shiite clerics, including Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the greatest Shiite theorist.
Contrary to what is assumed, in recent months, this man has been interfering in Iraqi internal affairs, provoking Iraqi nationalism, the latter expressed its angry reactions through social media sites as well as cultural, political and popular circles.
In his weekly press conference, on September 7th, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was asked about his government's position regarding the new sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran and how the latter warned against the consequences of violating them, he answered saying: “In principle we are against sanctions in the region. Sieges and sanctions destroy societies and do not weaken the regimes (...) we consider it a fundamental strategic error and a false move, but we will commit to protecting the interests of our people. We do not interact with it or sympathize with it, but we commit to it."
Interfering in Iraq's internal affairs
It is clear that Abadi did not express any support for the sanctions, but he expressed a position that no one in his position can disagree on, because that would result in a confrontation with the largest international force in an issue that doesn’t hold any interest to Iraq.
The representative of the Iranian supreme leader living in Najaf, who is not an official representative of the Iranian state, but a personal representative of Khamenei as a cleric, chose to violate the rules put in place in all countries of the world for foreign residents, when he blamed the Iraqi Prime Minister for what he said, saying that his statements were “ irresponsible” and “ in contradiction with the loyalty, the honorable positions of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the blood of the martyrs it provided to defend Iraq and purge the land from the decay of ISIS, as he put it. He went further than that by saying that Abadi's statement “reflects his psychological defeat towards America, as well as an offense to the Iraqi people”, and considered that “Abadi has engaged with America, and is a subordinate to it in its plots on the neighbor of Iraq, Iran, which is united with the Iraqi people in religion and positions.”
In previous occasions, Mujtaba Khamenei sought to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs, the latest of which was in June after the results of the parliamentary elections. During a meeting with leaders of political forces and Shiite armed factions in the presence of General Qassem Soleimani and the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad, Mujtaba Khamenei declared That “Iran will not allow the Communists, secularists and Baathists to control the government in Iraq,” in reference to the victory of a number of Communists, and other civilians, in the recent parliamentary elections at the expense of many of the symbols of sectarian, Shiite and Sunni ideologies. Such statements were also made by Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to the Iranian leader, during an unofficial visit to Iraq in February. Iran itself canceled a planned visit to Abadi in Tehran and launched a media campaign against him. Some Iranian officials also called on Iraq to pay hundreds of billions of dollars to Iran for "compensation" for the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s.
Iraq qualifies to play the role of mediator between Iran and the United States, but the capacities of this role has weakened now because of Iranian statements sustained by the position of some Iraqi Shiite forces which are at odds with the position of the Iraqi government.Adnan Hussein
Naturally, no one could have gone this far in a state that have full of sovereignty. The post-2003 State of Iraq itself has personally chosen to reduce its sovereignty. The system of sectarian and national quotas agreed upon by the political class that came to power with ongoing US-Iranian support to this day have paved the way for foreign intervention. The conflicting political forces fighting over power, influence and money have always sought more domination from foreign powers and used to preserve their quotas. This has produced a weak Iraqi state that seduces other to neglect its sovereignty and independence. The government has always been almost paralyzed by conflicts and rivalries over positions and privileges, in the forefront privileges of huge deals that pour important amount of money, as a results hundreds of billions of dollars of development budgets have poured into the coffers of influential parties, mostly Islamic, and to the personal accounts of their leaders outside of Iraq. This resulted in the devastation of the people, especially the people of the southern and mid provinces with a Shiite-dominated population subject to Shiite militias and parties, which are loyal to Iran with a power so overwhelming that it shadows that of the state and the country. This is another side of the temptation to overlooking the sovereignty of Iraq and the powers of the Iraqi state, as expressed by the statements of Iranian officials who want to dictate the lives of the Iraqis in what they can and can’t do, and involve them in an inferno of Iranian regional and international conflicts.
The worst part is that there are Shiite leaders who did not hesitate to criticize Abadi and blame him because he did not take a position that confirms Iraq's non-compliance with US sanctions. Some of these leaders threatened to work against these sanctions and attack US targets in Iraq if Washington proceeds with its sanctions against Tehran.
The position of the Iraqi government, expressed by Abadi, is the right position because it takes into account the national interests of Iraq, and it also qualifies Iraq to play the role of mediator between Iran and the United States, but the capacities of this role has weakened now because of Iranian statements sustained by the position of some Iraqi Shiite forces which are at odds with the position of the Iraqi government.
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