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Inheritance or Arrogance? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A disturbing and reckless scene shocked many Iraqis when they heard about the Iranians seizing one of their oil fields. The Iranians took down the Iraqi flag and planted their own in its place in the Fakka oil field. Does it make sense that the Iranians would attack their friends in Iraq? Does it make sense that the Tehran regime would seek to deprive the Iraqi people who have lived most of their recent history in poverty in a region rich in oil and [petro] dollars?

Some people think it is merely propaganda in an effort to damage Iraq-Iran relations, after Iranian commentators emerged to completely deny the story claiming that it is a fabrication by the Americans and the Baathists. However, the denial did not last long, as the Iraqi government confirmed [the news] and the story became a fact. Though both sides quickly tried to calm the situation at the beginning, the problem persisted; especially when news came out that there were other partial occupations of oil-producing areas by Iranian forces in neighboring Iraq. Also, [the problem persisted] because of a series of inherited conflicts that were swept under the carpet after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime and the new Iraqi regime thought that Tehran would be more cooperative and friendly.

The dispute over the oil-producing areas between regional states is the first cause of conflict; it caused the war between Iraq and Iran and it was behind Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait. Therefore, the problem of oil borders between Iraq and Iran does not come as a surprise but rather its timing does. Did the Iranian forces rush to get their hands on Iraqi oil fields because they think that the Iraqi government is rushing to sign contracts permitting [oil] concessions whilst it wants to prevent this by force as it considers this its right in the region or does it want to impose its own conditions?

Is this odd timing attributable to the chaos within the parties of the Iranian regime itself, as there is one party spending a lot of money and effort on strengthening foreign relations with friendly parties, whilst another part of the regime is following a hostile policy? Iran classifies the Iraqi regime as a friend just like Hezbollah, Hamas and the Huthis. But it has harmed it the most with conspiracies, destruction and its support of terrorists on the pretext that it is fighting the Americans. Or is it arrogance that has distinguished the mindset of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s regime as we have seen in the way he is managing the dangerous Iranian nuclear file with a kind of defiance that Iranian regimes of the past would not have dared [to act upon] and in the same way it has dealt with its internal opponents?

The truth is that Iran is its own worst enemy; its enemy is not the West or the Arabs. What’s certain is that it would be committing the biggest mistake once again if it ruins good, neighborly ties with an important state such as Iraq, because no matter what regime is managing Baghdad, and even if it was affiliated to Iran, it cannot be quiet about the seizure of oil fields. For example, Iraqi parties that are friendly with Tehran could not make excuses for Iran regarding the Fakka oil field crisis and could not say much about what happened in front of the masses.

Iran is a state that is rich in resources; it is sitting on a large sea of oil. But [the Iranians] are using the same mindset that Saddam Hussein used in dealing with Iraqi oil in that he only saw the oil of other and wanted to seize that instead of developing his own oil fields. Saddam wanted to raise the price of oil by force using weapons until his financial problems had been solved instead of understanding market tools.

Ahmadinejad’s government has the same features as Saddam Hussein’s extinct government. Today it believes that its occupation of an Iraqi oil field will bring it a few extra dollars, alleviating the internal pressure on it from the masses. If it’s goal is not really to steal Iraqi oil, then the only justification left is that it wants to take Iraqi oil hostage to bargain for it to break the US blockade, as Washington banned exporting American technology and is preventing American companies to work in [the field of] Iranian oil. As for the inherited problems between the two countries, the border problems in particular, the wounds have been opened once again and will harm the Ahmadinejad government even more than the Iraqis have suffered.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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