The leader of the Sadrist trend, Muqtada al-Sadr, warned that “the Iraqi Spring is coming” after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to use force to disperse a protest along the international road in Anbar province ten days ago. So is the Iraqi Spring really coming? The simple answer is that the Iraqi Spring will be the Iranian Autumn.
Al-Maliki has not overcome the storm he is facing; rather it has transformed into a hurricane, and those that will fall this time are the Iranians, not the Iraqis. Tehran certainly would not be able to bear the fall of the criminal al-Assad regime and the uprooting of its ally al-Maliki in Iraq, for this would be a tough Iranian Autumn, especially with the Iranian presidential elections around the corner, not to mention other issues soon to come to a head such as the Iranian nuclear program. All this could push Iran to accelerate the fall of al-Maliki, before the fall of al-Assad, by replacing al-Maliki as Iraq’s Prime Minister with another, more acceptable figure. This is what many in Iraq must be alert to, especially some of the Sunnis there. They must distance themselves from such sectarianism and not raise pictures of Saddam Hussein in their protests. Just as al-Sadr warned them himself, and he is right, it is possible to turn the Iraqi storm into a hurricane to uproot al-Maliki, even before he uses the force he is threatening.
Al-Sadr has entered into the anti-Maliki demonstrations, and certainly the Kurds will follow, especially with al-Maliki’s continual threats towards them. Of course the Sadrists and the Kurds understand – along with other Iraqi political forces – the seriousness of what al-Maliki is doing in Iraq. These factors could all force Iran to take a step, along the lines of “jumping before you are pushed”, to replace al-Maliki with another figure capable of achieving the minimum level of Iraqi consensus, especially as al-Maliki has burned his bridges with the bulk of the Iraqi political trends. Iran, which is doing all it can today to prevent the inevitable fall of al-Assad, cannot afford the fall of another strategic ally, Iraq. This would be a difficult blow to take for the mullah’s regime in Iran, which, as noted above, has other important and decisive concerns, whether externally or internally.
The fall of al-Maliki, as threatened by al-Sadr through his claim that “the Iraqi Spring is coming”, means that Iran’s hands in the region will be cut off, and the magic would turn against the magician. Just as Iran thought there would be no Syria without al-Assad, Tehran could soon find itself without any state-level allies in the region, including Iraq and Syria.
Thus, as long as the active Iraqi parties mobilize in a coordinated manner, and with al-Maliki countering the demonstrations with force, and some of the Sunnis in Iraq realizing that the time now requires intelligence not emotion, especially when it comes to raising pictures of Saddam Hussein and other divisive acts, then we should not rule out the possibility that al-Maliki could fall at the hands of Iran, before the fall of the tyrant al-Assad. This would be in order to preserve the minimum of Iran’s interests in the region. Yet the fall of al-Maliki at the hands of the Iraqis, through the so-called “Iraqi Spring” that al-Sadr has warned of, will likely represent the Iranian Autumn, and this is what wise minds everywhere must encourage!