Iran, sanctions and obstructing formation of governments

Radwan al-Sayed
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It’s been days since the fourth crisis which the Iranians have caused in terms of forming the Iraqi government or finalizing its formation. The first crisis was replacing Abadi and they succeeded in that under the impression that the new Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was independent.

Abdul Mahdi submitted his credentials and repeatedly stated that Iraq is not part of the system of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on Iran.


Meanwhile, Abadi has stated that he can only deal with the sanctions in order to maintain Iraq’s interests and to maintain relations with the US, which cooperates with him in confronting terrorism and supporting the Iraqi army.

Iran fomented the second crisis over the election of the President, who has to be a Kurd according to the quota system. The Iranians and those who support Iran in Iraq stood against Barzani’s candidate and supported Barham Salih from the Talbani party, after he pledged that his first decision would be to nominate Abdul Mahdi.

I think that the problem is not in the right representation or the eligibility of this or that Sunni, but it is that Hezbollah wants to show that it and Iran control Lebanon, its government and even its Sunni component

Radwan al-Sayed

The third crisis ensued during the election of the parliamentary speaker, who has to be a Sunni according to the quota system. A young man from Anbar was elected. He was one of their (the Popular Mobilization) supporters when he was the governor of Anbar. He contested elections with them, against other candidates who were against the Popular Mobilization and the Iranians before, during and after the elections.

The fourth crisis is the ongoing row over the nomination of two men for the interior and defense ministries. The interior ministry is part of the Shiites’ quota and the Shiites have nominated Falih Alfayyadh, who was the director of national security and supervisor of the Popular Mobilization. Abadi had ousted him after the Basra developments and the Federal Court had reinstated him to his positions.

He is completely loyal to Iran and its followers in Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr has officially opposed his appointment because he thinks he is not an independent figure, hence this violates the condition of the agreement between the Shiite Islah and Binaa blocs. However, Sadr will eventually approve his nomination, as he had done in other similar occasions.

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The position of the Defense Minister, in view of the low importance of his position since the prime minister is the commander-in-chief, comes under the Sunni quota. The Iranians are hence stating that the formation of the Iraqi government would not be complete, unless it was formed according to the conditions of the Popular Mobilization, Hadi Al-Amiri and Maliki.

Disrupting Lebanon

The second Iranian disruption is happening in Lebanon over the formation of a government. It has been six months since Saad Hariri was appointed as prime minister-designate and he has so far been incapable of forming a cabinet as he has been distracted by distinguishing between his jurisdictions and the jurisdictions of the president who issues the cabinet formation decree. Then an inter-Christian dispute took place over the quota of the president’s party and the Lebanese Forces Party and whether the latter should have five, four or three ministers according to the results of the elections.

Aoun’s son-in-law won this dispute against the LF as the prime minister-designate abandoned his ally Geagea, who had to accept the president’s conditions in order to be part of the government. However, once the formation of the government seemed complete, Nasrallah demanded the so-called “independent Sunnis” to be represented in the cabinet via one minister. This is an interference in Saad Hariri’s position and Hariri strictly rejected this and he was supported by the president.

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I think that the problem is not in the right representation or the eligibility of this or that Sunni, but it is that Hezbollah wants to show that it and Iran control Lebanon, its government and even its Sunni component. Hezbollah wants to say to the West that Iran has the upper hand in Lebanon — a card up its sleeve on the sanctions issue, or else Lebanon would collapse. The bottom line is that there can be no government in Lebanon that does not meet the conditions of Iranian Hezbollah.

Other war theatres

The third issue where Iran wants to appear as a decision maker is Syria. The Americans have finally appeared firm in facing off Russia and Iran. Iran has left the issue to Russia, and had gotten closer to the Turks. The Russians are concerned in returning the refugees to Syria and reconstruction. One of the pressures they are using on the Europeans and Israel states: If you do not help us, we will be forced to give Iran the opportunity to renew the war.

The fourth issue which Iran controls part of is related to Yemen. The peace calls have been raised again. This time the US has joined those who are calling for peace negotiations after Britain, France and Germany. Like earlier times, the Houthis would not respond unless they realize defeat or Iran sees a benefit in it.

The fifth and last file is that of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Gaza. The Egyptians have succeeded for the fourth or the fifth time in reducing tensions between Hamas and Israel. However, tensions can re-emerge if the Iranian interest required so. The Iranians made Israelis believe that they intend to appease them in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza but this is time bound for the few next months, or else tensions would re-emerge again on the three fronts.

The US administration was not exaggerating when it considered Iran as the top terror sponsor in the world.

This article is also available in Arabic.


Radwan al Sayed is a Lebanese thinker and writer who attained a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Theology at al-Azhar University and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tübingen in Germany. He has been a scholar of Islamic studies for decades and is the former editor-in-chief of the quarterly al-Ijtihad magazine. Radwan is also the author of many books and has written for Arab dailies such as al-Ittihad, al-Hayat and Asharq al-Awsat.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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