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Opinion: Iraq could become a quagmire for Iran | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Iraqi Shi’ite militiamen aim their weapons during clashes with ISIS, in Jurf Al-Sakhr, about 43 miles (70 km) southwest of Baghdad, Iraq, on October 7, 2014. (AP Photo)

A recent Associated Press report investigated Iran’s growing domination of Iraq under the cover of supporting it against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) organization. According to the sources quoted in the report, the Iranians have sold Iraq nearly 10 billion US dollars’ worth of weapons to fight the terrorists with. Although these shipments include Kalashnikov rifles, rocket launchers, and ammunition, the actual value of this weaponry may not exceed 50 million dollars.

Of course, it’s needless to explain that 10 billion dollars is a massive amount of money, enough to buy advanced weapons from major arms exporters instead of rusty simple arms from Iran. But the objective was to fund Iran’s military at a time when it is confronting domestic economic pressures.

The Iraqis, who are currently overjoyed with this Iranian support, will in the future end up complaining about Tehran’s domination over them. They will complain that they cannot freely take decisions according to their national interests. Iraq will then become submissive to Iran due to the latter’s increased political and security influence—just as Lebanon came under Syria’s influence in the 1970s when the latter’s troops entered the country to save it from Palestinian militias and only withdrew after 30 years of a quasi-occupation thanks to pressure from the UN Security Council.

Iraq, too, will become an Iranian farm which Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, politicians, mediators and brokers exploit. Iraqis then will find problems coming from Iran increasing by the year, just like what happened to the Lebanese people who brought the Syrians into their country only to find out later that the chaos and violence of Palestinian militias were less than that caused by the Syrian army. The Syrians controlled the Lebanese population, exploited the country and dictated all of its affairs, from the smallest details to major decisions such as who would become president, prime minister, and speaker of parliament. They killed whoever disagreed with them.

The Iranian regime will go as far as to humiliate the Iraqis after claiming credit for protecting Baghdad from an ISIS invasion. We all know that the terrorist organization ISIS turned away from the capital and headed towards Mosul and Kurdistan when the Iranians weren’t even there to confront it. Shi’ite leaders will pay a higher price than others for the Iranian presence on Iraqi soil because Iranian influence will remain limited in Sunni areas no matter how much their military and security presence expands in other parts of Iraq.

A Shi’ite leader claimed that the United States supported Sunni extremists over the past years and that it must accept Shi’ite extremists as well. This is an indicator of how Iran will empower Shi’ite extremists over moderates and other peaceful Shi’ite and Sunni political parties. The American presence in Iraq was temporary, and it was the Americans who toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime after the Iraqi resistance—both Shi’ite and Kurdish—failed to do so.

If Iraqis remain silent over the Iranian regime’s incursion into their lives, they will suffer the oppression and cruelty which the Iranian people themselves are suffering from. In the end, the Iraqis will view the Iranians as an occupying force and they will fight and expel them from Iraq just like their Mongols, the British, and the Americans.

On the other hand, it may be in the interest of other countries for Iran to be sucked into a quagmire in Iraq and clash with Arab Sunni powers and with Arab Shi’ite powers later. The Iranian regime has been smart and cautious enough to avoid direct military confrontations outside its own borders. Even when the Afghani Taliban forces provoked the Iranian regime by killing a number of its citizens, Iran withdrew from the front line and did not attack them. During the wars of the past 30 years, Iran has relied on regional proxies—like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and the Houthis in Yemen—to defend its agendas. It is the members of these parties who die on behalf of the Iranians. The entrance of Iran’s forces into Iraq and of its militias into Syria shows another side of Tehran and marks a new advanced phase of the struggle in the region.