It often happens that an excuse is even worse than the deed it seeks to justify. However, it is very rare to see so many people defending an excuse like we’ve seen after the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad, Iraj Masjedi, left an official celebration marking the first anniversary of Iraq’s declaration of victory against ISIS. The movie appeared more of a deliberate act on his part and not an unintended faux pas, and a reflection of Iran’s policy towards Iraq.
The ceremony was broadcast live from one of the most luxurious hotels in the Iraqi capital, and it was attended by the most noted officials of the Iraqi state and the foreign diplomatic corps. A video of the Iranian envoy’s withdrawal from the ceremony was later posted on social media networks allowing millions who did not watch the live broadcast to see what happened.
It often happens that an excuse is even worse than the deed it seeks to justify. However, it is very rare to see so many people defending an excuse like we’ve seen after the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad, Iraj Masjedi, left an official celebration marking the first anniversary of Iraq’s declaration of victory against ISISAdnan Hussein
As usual, the celebration began with the usual segments, a welcoming address, a recitation of Quranic verses and the national anthem. The ceremony’s host then asked the audience to observe a minute of silence in the memory of the martyrs. It is at this moment when everyone stood up that the Iranian ambassador who was sitting in the first row of senior statesmen and guests decided to leave the ceremony. The sight of him leaving was quite upsetting, as he was sitting the middle of the first row, surrounded by 20 guests on each side.
Ambassador Masjedi simply left his seat and turned right towards the door of the large hall.
The Iraqis condemned the envoy’s behavior and some even called for his expulsion from the country. The response of the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad was worse than the deed itself as it blamed the Iraqis for condemning the ambassador’s move. Of course, the Iraqis are not to blame as they witnessed with their own eyes how the ambassador of the country that is involved the most in their country’s tragic developments behaved at an event when he and the other guests were asked to stand for a moment of silence to commemorate the lives of martyrs who died in the war against ISIS.
The Iranian excuse was actually completely not acceptable. Iran said its ambassador thought that the ceremony had come to an end and that the ceremony’s host announced this so he left! However, Masjedi speaks Arabic well, as he comes from the Arab region in southern Iran (Arabistan or Khuzestan). In fact, he comes from the town of Abadan, the home of the Arabic Kaab tribe, located on the eastern bank of the Shatt al-Arab opposite of the Siba town. He was also an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general who is directly and closely connected to Iraq and Iraqis, like his commander General Qassim Soleimani is. Furthermore, almost half of the Persian language has Arabic words; hence no one can believe that Masjedi did not understand the announcement, which called for a minute of silence for the souls of the martyrs.
Even if one were to assume that he really didn’t understand the announcement, then why did the ambassador not notice while heading towards the door of the hall that no one else was leaving? If he actually thought the ceremony was over, wasn’t the polite thing to do was to shake hands with those sitting next to him before leaving? However, he didn’t do any of this.
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In fact, Masjedi’s behavior cannot be isolated from the actions of several other Iranian officials in Iraq, who are in the habit of denigrating the sovereignty and national dignity of Iraqis through their blatant interference in local affairs, such as their interference in determining the movement of Iraqi forces fighting in Iraq and appointing senior officials in the state, including the president, speaker and prime minister.
Not so long ago, on the eve of parliamentary elections in May of this year, the adviser of Iran's supreme leader Ali Akbar Velayati said at a religious conference in Baghdad that communists, liberals and secularists were not allowed to rule Iraq! After the election and the selection of the three heads of state, Iran's Revolutionary Guards Commander General Mohammad Ali Jafari boasted that Iran had vanquished the United States in Iraq and given it a 3-0 defeat. They were referring to the heads of the three authorities who were selected after the election with direct Iranian intervention.
Of course, we cannot blame Iranian officials for acting this way as any country, especially one like Iran, will interfere in its neighbors’ affairs if it sees a chance to. Those to blame are Iraqi officials who do not move a finger, even if formally, whenever there is an Iranian act of this kind. Perhaps the only exception among the top officials in the current Iraqi state, who does not miss any opportunity to criticize Iranian intervention is former Vice President and former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, leader of the Iraqi National List.
What’s worse is that there are many Iraqi officials who boast of their allegiance to Iran. During the time of this incident involving Ambassador Masjedi, a picture of a member of the Baghdad Provincial Council was shared on social media sites showed him sitting at his official desk with two large pictures of the late Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini and also of the current leader Khamenei. Many activists commented on the picture on whether it shows a member of the Baghdad Council or the mayor of Tehran! It is well-known that the number of pictures of the two Iranian leaders that are hanged in the streets of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities exceed that of pictures of any Iraqi leader! So what prevents Ambassador Masjedi and others from saying to the Iraqis: It is my backyard and I am free to act any way I want?
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.