By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Source: Asharq Al-Awsat
The visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Baghdad this week — his first since he took office six years ago — comes amid heavy pressure on the Iraqis exerted by the Tehran regime, which wants to use Iraq as an escape route away from American sanctions. Given these pressures and threats, do we have to worry that Iraq will become an Iranian satellite?
Tehran succeeded in entering the Iraqi arena following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Since then, it has participated in marginalizing the US presence through its support of Sunni and Shiite armed groups.
Iran now intends to turn Iraq into another “banana republic,” just like Lebanon; subsequently exploiting it with the recruitment of militants who would fight on its behalf around the world, as they are currently doing in Syria under Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s command. It also wants Iraq to become its financial agent, funding Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Bashar Assad’s Syrian government with billions of dollars.
Iran does not wish Iraq to have a strong authority, but rather be a weak state like Lebanon, governed by militias like Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq. However, Iraq is a big country that has its own interests and aspirations, which are incompatible with the interests and ideas of the extremist religious regime in Tehran.
Furthermore, Iran is a country under siege, while Iraq is open to the world. Today, Iraq enjoys its best relations and circumstances since 1990, and is in a transitional phase of development that will drive it to become one of the wealthiest countries in the region. It can play an independent, sovereign, and free role without being subservient or subordinate to any other country.
Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi is well aware of Iraq’s status, and he knows well the available options. Abdul-Mahdi knows that Rouhani wants him to give up his country’s interests after he said in Tehran on Monday: “We have supported the Iraqi people in their difficult days.” However, Iran would have escaped the US siege had it agreed to abandon its nuclear project and stopped exporting chaos and rebellions, as well as its foreign military interventions. So why should the Iraqis pay for Tehran’s extremist policies?
Tehran is now more besieged than ever: Its oil tankers are abandoned in the middle of oceans, it cannot use the US dollar when selling its carpets, pistachios, and vegetables, and it has been deserted even by China and Russia, the two countries on whose support it was counting in its preparations for the confrontation with the US. Indeed, Iran was not forced to fight these battles; rather, its regime has chosen to play the role of the villain in the region, which is why it is facing this situation and a siege like the one Saddam faced in the past.
Iraqis must now realize that what is going on is an international battle, and they will lose all that they have achieved since stability and state authority returned to Baghdad.
Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, Soleimani, and all Iran’s senior officials who have visited Baghdad want Iraq to become a subordinate satellite state. Lebanon is a clear example, as it has been fighting and suffering on behalf of Iran since the 1980s. Iraq will not be luckier than the current, divided Lebanon if it falls under Iranian control.