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Iraq is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections in May. At least 28 Iraqi political parties associated with paramilitaries that fought Islamic State (IS) have registered to run candidates. Many of these parties, like their ‘parent’ militias, have close ties to Tehran, reported The Strategist (Australia).
Most of these militias formed after IS captured Mosul. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s senior Shiite cleric, issued a fatwa proclaiming that fighting against IS was ‘a sacred defence’. Those who died would be revered as ‘martyrs’.
The fatwa led to the formation of the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF)), which attracted around 60,000 fighters organised into some 60 units. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directs at least 44 of these 60 Shia paramilitaries; others are under the authority of Sistani or are affiliated with Moqtada al-Sadr. These fighters played a central role in countering IS in Fallujah, Ramadi and Baiji. Many in Iraq believe the PMFs probably ‘saved’ Baghdad from IS.
To understand why Iran is determined to see a sympathetic government in Baghdad, it’s important to recall two key events that took place soon after the Iranian Revolution began in 1979, and which have come to define Iranian national security considerations.
First, the US government attempted to free the 53 diplomats who had been taken hostage in November 1979 after students had overrun the US embassy in Tehran. In April 1980, as diplomatic negotiations continued to secure their release, Washington sent a military force into Iran in a failed attempt to free the hostages. Iran has come to see Operation Eagle Claw as typifying American perfidy.
Second, within months of the revolution, Saddam Hussein launched an all-out war against Iran. Between 300,000 and 1 million Iranians died in the eight-year conflict.
These experiences have instilled in Iran’s ruling elite (many of whom were alive during the war) a sense that Iran is always under threat. One Iranian strategy to ensure its security has been the development and support of proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Taliban in Afghanistan , Shia militias in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen. These entities promote Iranian national interests by engaging Iran’s enemies, whether they are Israelis, Americans or Saudis.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Tehran held the view that a pro-US administration in Baghdad was unacceptable. Iran fears encirclement by the Americans. It already shares a 920-kilometre border with Afghanistan and a 960-kilometre border with Pakistan, both American allies.
Now the regime wants a pro-Tehran government in Baghdad. That would give Iran a safe western border, allow it to influence oil prices (Iraq has the world’s fifth-largest proven oil reserves with 140 billion barrels), and enable Tehran to continue to challenge Saudi dominance in the region.
In the early 2000s, Tehran preferred that both Iraq and Afghanistan should remain in a state of manageable chaos that kept the Americans occupied and unable to focus on Iran. Thus, from the moment that the Americans took charge of rebuilding Iraq, the Iranians sought ways to bleed the Americans dry, primarily through their campaign in Anbar province.
Iran’s growing influence in Iraq became clear in 2008 when David Petraeus, then-commander of US Central Command, received a text message from Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite al-Quds Force. The message read:
General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qassem Suleimani, control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan. And indeed, the ambassador in Baghdad is a Quds Force member. The individual who’s going to replace him is a Quds Force member.
The message highlighted the brazenness of Suleimani and of Iran when it came to dealing with Iraq. And it illustrates why Iraq’s former national security minister, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, later noted that nothing got done in Iraq without the approval of Suleimani.
Following the 2010 parliamentary elections, when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was struggling to form a government, a group of Iraqi parliamentarians went to Qom to celebrate the Eid al Fitr holiday. They met with Suleimani, who then persuaded Moqtada al-Sadr to support Maliki. In return, Maliki agreed to work towards removing US forces from Iraq.
Seven years later, Iran’s influence across Iraq remains obvious. With the rise and fall of IS, Tehran has another opportunity to shape political developments in Iraq. This is bound to concern Iran’s neighbours, particularly the Saudis, who appear determined to stop Iran’s growing influence in the region.
This month marks the 15th anniversary of the US war on Iraq. The “shock and awe” attack was launched based on “stove-piped” intelligence fed from the CIA and Pentagon through an uncritical and compliant US mainstream media. The US media was a willing accomplice to this crime of aggression committed by the George W. Bush Administration, reported The Unz Review (US).
Despite the lies we were constantly bombarded with, Iraq never presented a threat to the United States. Iraq never had the weapons of mass destruction that the neocons used to frighten Americans into supporting the war. How many of them knew all along that there were no WMDs? We’ll never know. Attacking Iraq and overthrowing its leader was long a plan in the neocon playbook and they used the 9/11 attack on the US as an excuse to pull the plan off the shelf and put it into action.
The US “regime change” war on Iraq has directly resulted in the death of at least a quarter of a million civilians, and indirectly perhaps a million Iraqis have been killed. The Iraqi infrastructure was destroyed and the country was set back many decades in development. Far from the democratization we were promised, Iraq has been turned into a hell on earth. Due to the US use of depleted uranium and other chemical weapons like white phosphorus, Iraqis will continue to suffer from birth defects and other related illnesses for generations.
How did we get there? War propaganda was essential in paving the way for the Iraq war. Americans are generally skeptical about launching new wars, so it takes a steady media bombardment about the alleged depravities of any targeted regime before public opinion begins to shift in favor of war.
Because the neocons who helped launch the war have never had to face the consequences of their actions, they continue to promote war with impunity. Just this past week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was pushing for a US attack on North Korea in which millions may be killed. He said this weekend, “All the damage that would come from a war would be worth it in terms of long-term stability and national security.” That’s just what they said before the US attacked Iraq, and how did that turn out? I find it disgusting that the media continues to give airtime almost exclusively to those who promote more US disasters like Iraq.
The Iraqi parliament did something extraordinary last week. A majority of elected Iraqi representatives voted to demand that their prime minister draw up a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from the country. President Obama had withdrawn US troops from Iraq in 2011, after a status of forces agreement could not be reached with the Iraqi government, but he returned the US military to Iraq under the auspices of fighting ISIS.
We had no business going into Iraq in the first place and we have no business remaining in Iraq. Al-Qaeda and ISIS emerged in Iraq because our attack and occupation of the country 15 years ago created fertile fields for extremism. Nothing will be achieved if we remain. Let’s listen to the Iraqis and just come home!
show source https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/iraq-client-state-iran/ http://www.unz.com/rpaul/we-should-listen-to-the-iraqi-parliament/