Iraq is Iran’s client state.
“Walk into almost any market in Iraq and the shelves are filled with goods from Iran — milk, yogurt, chicken. Turn on the television and channel after channel broadcasts programs sympathetic to Iran”, this is how the New York Times stated in July 2017. Cement, bricks, and drugs also come through the 1,599 km long porous border of Iran. Iran’s dominance in Iraq is not limited at the micro-level, as she also influences the military, politics, economy and cultural affairs in Iraq, which makes the country more deteriorated.
Mowaffak Al-Rubaile, the national security advisor of Iraq (2004–2009), told Vice News, “When ISIS stormed the three provinces in June 2014. We (Iraq) asked for help from the United States of America. We told them that you can see and monitor terrorists coming from Syria crossing the borders to Iraq, please help us with some airstrike. President Obama said ‘NO’.” “It took the United States of America three months to start bombing the terrorists in Iraq, THREE MONTHS___ while took Iran twenty-four hours, truckloads of arms and people to help us, defending Baghdad.” He added. (Iran’s power over Iraq | VICE on HBO , 2020)
Iran, once the enemy state of Iraq found it suitable to intervene in Iraq with the Saddam and America gone, as she has several interests in tagging Iraq as a client state of Iran. For instance, Iraq has become a proxy state badly sandwiched between US and the Islamic Republic of Iran, as both the states cannot afford direct contact on their respective soils. The interest number two is, that many famous shrines of the Shia community are in Iraq. For instance, the Imam Ali (R.A)Tomb is located in Najaf, Iraq, and about 60 percent Iraqis also belong to the Shia community.
Since Iran’s interference in Iraq, it is easy to notice that Iran’s designs do not stop here as she has also used soft and hard power to extend its influence in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, and throughout the region. New York Times also stated, “In that contest, Iran won, and the United States lost”, as Iran dominates the region more than the United States of America.
But her expansion has also heightened the sectarian conflicts around the region as Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi version of Islam is against Iran’s Shia version of Islam. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is a good child of US with UAE, which makes their interests common in the region and brings them closer as “Enemy of my enemy is my friend,” is a commonly practiced principle in world politics.
Iran also trains volunteers from Iraq and sends those to Syria in purpose to defend the Assad regime there. Iranian influence is present in almost every field of life in Iraq, including commerce. The city of Najaf, an important place in the Shiaism, is mainly controlled by Iran to bring ease for the Shia pilgrims. Whereas Saddam Hussein had banned the famous Shia sites of Najaf for Iranians for a long time. Today, a citizen of Najaf may not have a sweet apple to eat but the Iranian pilgrims get those in free, mostly.
Besides, many Iraqi parliamentarians also work for Iran and they are in the house to serve the interests of Iran in Iraq. For instance, the Iraqi Parliament passed a law in 2016 which made the constellation of Shia militias a permanent fixture of Iraq’s Security Forces. This law firms Iran’s paw over many powerful units of Iraq. Iran is not only deepening the religious ties with the Iraqi Shia majority but also creating a wider network of allies in and around Iraq.
Talking about the newly elected parliament of Iraq, the success of Fatah, which is a political alliance of Iranian backed Badr Organization, Kata’ib Hezbollah, Asa’aib Ahl Al-Haq and the Imam Ali Brigades, has overfilled Iran with power within Iraq. This parliament will make it easier for Iran to further exploit the natural resources of the western and northern Iraq, local businesses, checkpoint tolls, and protection rackets. (Watkins, 2020)
In the aftermath of the crisis at the embassy (loyal to Iran, volunteers attacked US embassy in Iraq, in late 2019), experts argued that it demonstrated how the United States has no friends in Iraq while Iran held all the cards in terms of influence. The attack on the US embassy showed that the US could be humiliated and the Iraqi establishment would simply stand aside and let it happen if Tehran gave them the word. (The New Arab, 2020)
The American purposes miserably failed in Iraq if she was there in 2003 to install democracy and smother WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction). But if the preference was eliminating Saddam and occupying the oilfields of Iraq, then the objective is accomplished, in one way or the other.
To conclude as I have mentioned in my earlier articles and would like to borrow the notion again that Iran has five capitals today. If USA, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel will ever want to crush Iran, they need to have strategies to counter the reactions from Beirut, Damascus, Sana’a, Baghdad and then Tehran.
Arango, T. (2017, July 15). Iran Dominates in Iraq After U.S. ‘Handed the Country Over’. Retrieved from nytimes.com: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/15/world/middleeast/iran-iraq-iranian-power.html
The New Arab. (2020). Retrieved from Thenewarab.com: https://english.alaraby.co.uk/english/indepth/2020/1/3/irans-power-in-iraq-questioned-after-us-kills-soleimani
Watkins, J. (2020, January 8). LSE. Retrieved from LSE: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mec/2020/01/08/iran-in-iraq-soft-power-after-soleimani/