Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) and Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdulmehdi (R) hold a joint press conference following their meeting at the Iraqi Prime Ministry Palace in Baghdad, Iraq on March 11, 2019. (Photo by Iranian Presidency - Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Iran Wants Iraq to Become Another Lebanon

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Saudi Arabia, March 14

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Baghdad for the first since he took office six years ago comes with heavy pressure on Iraq, which Tehran is hoping to use to evade US sanctions. But Iraq is not a platform for Iranian redemption. It is a large country that has longstanding historical and religious relations with others and is nestled in the heart of the Middle East. With these pressures and threats, do we have to worry about Iraq becoming the next Iranian proxy? Iran succeeded in entering the Iraqi arena after the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein. What Tehran wants today is to create another banana republic, like Lebanon, as a source of recruitment for fighters around the world, as they do today in Syria under General Qasem Soleimani. Iran wants Iraq to become its chief financer, providing billions of dollars to Hizbullah and Assad. Iraq, however, has interests and aspirations that are incompatible with those of the extremist religious regime in Tehran. Iran is a besieged country. Iraq is open to the world. Today, Iraq is enjoying its best relations since the 1990s and is finally entering a development stage that will make it one of the richest countries in the region. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is well aware of his options and understands what Iran is trying to do and how his country fits into this master plan. Why should Iraqis pay for Tehran’s extremist policy? Tehran is besieged today more than ever before. Its tankers are abandoned in the middle of the ocean; it is deprived of selling its carpets, pistachios and vegetables in markets around the world. It is even abandoned by China and Russia, two countries that have been supportive of it in the past in its battle with the Americans. Iran is not forced to fight these battles, but its regime is chose to play the role of villain in the region. The Iraqis must realize that this is an international battle, and that they will lose all they have achieved if they fall into the hands of Iran. Rouhani, Zarif, Soleimani and all the senior Iranian officials who have passed through Baghdad want Iraqis to turn into a dependent—not independent—state. Lebanon has been a sad case study of what happens to governments that collaborate with Iran. Iraq will not be much different unless it imposes strict boundaries to Iran’s meddling in its internal affairs. – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed

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