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How Israeli Threats Generated A Moderate Iraqi Government

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, September 5

The mullahs in Tehran experienced yet another blow this week, when the Iraqi parliament succeeded in forming a coalition consisting of moderate political forces led by Muqtada al-Sadr. This political coalition, numbering over 170 members, is far larger than the opposition bloc backed by Iran. This is a watershed moment. The Iranians considered Iraq its home turf. It didn’t even cross the mind of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, that Iran might lose its foothold in Baghdad, where it has been controlling politics for years. There is no doubt in my mind that what led to this Iraqi determination to come together against Iran and form a stable coalition is none other than Israel’s threats. Israel has made it very clear in recent weeks that any Iranian presence in Iraq, particularly the deployment of Iranian weapon systems, would force Tel Aviv to “eradicate” the threat on Iraqi territory. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman conducted several interviews in which he threatened that the Israel Air Force would act in Iraq just like it acts in Syria. The Iraqi members of parliament heard and understood these threats loud and clear. Despite facing heavy pressure from various Iranian stakeholders, who pushed them to reject a political partnership with moderate forces, they were forced to heed the Israeli warning. Had this coalition-building process taken place a year ago, it is very likely that the Iraqi parliament would have been a puppet government that takes orders from Tehran. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. The decision to protect Iraq’s sovereignty is the first step in a long journey to turn Iraq into a stable and vital democratic country. The people of Iraq have suffered so much in recent decades and the time has finally come for them to enjoy peace and security. While Iran hoped to use Baghdad as a tool—to launder its money, smuggle its weapons, and override the sanctions imposed upon it by the West—the Iraqi parliament made a clear decision to disassociate itself from Tehran and stand by the people of Iraq. –Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed

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