| 18.02,16. 01:09 AM |
Iran again resorting to its pond in Iraq
By Keyvan Salami
While the entire globe is focused on the ominous phenomenon known as Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State) and specifically developments in Syria, after failing to materialize its ambitions in the region and especially Syria, Iraq and Yemen, Tehran is now seeking to return Nouri al-Maliki to the throne in Iraq. Iran’s isolated status quo in the region, in the face Saudi Arabia’s Islamic coalition initiative against terrorism of any origin, be it Sunni or Shiite, adds more urgency to this matter. Despite the Iraqi people’s weekly demonstrations seeking reforms and evicting those pledging loyalty to Tehran, the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi[u1] has not enjoyed the power to realize the demonstrators’ rightful demands. This has caused major disappointment amongst the people and especially Sunnis, and encouraged the Iran-backed Shiite militias – marginalized from anti-Daesh operations – to now resort to vicious measures against the Sunni community in Diyala Province (north of Baghdad) and parts of the Iraqi capital. The truth is we are now witnessing an Iran-Maliki coup d’état in the midst of all the miseries in Iraq.
These turn of events are taking place at a time when the Iraqi people were hoping, and continue to hope for criminals such as Maliki and judiciary chief Mid’hat Mahmout, strongly associated to Tehran, to finally face justice. Thus, Iraqis are seeking to trace a new road map and bring an end to more than one decade of killings, torture, abductions and sectarian & religious wars in their homeland. However, due to the policy of dawdling and inaction adopted by the West and most specifically the U.S., in parallel to the incompetency and weakness seen in the al-Abadi administration[u2] , Iran considers now as the best window of opportunity to have Maliki return to the political scene in Iraq. Despite the fact that Maliki had backed down from the prime ministry with reluctance and handed over hegemony to his rival Haider al-Abadi only after the religious leadership intervened in early September 2014, Maliki is continuing his activities in the political stage and is seeking to revive his own sectarian legacy.
Maliki visited Tehran back in late November 2015 and returned to Iraq after a two week stay. Officials from Iran’s political, intelligence and military spectrum held meetings with Maliki and laid out their political road map for Iraq. since then Maliki has very actively entered into a new phase in the Iraqi political stage.
To monopolize political power in Iraq, based on instructions provided by Iranian security officials, Maliki is in desperate need to have the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and armed Shiite militias linked to the Quds Force as his unofficial military leverage always at his service. This led to an increasing number of meetings for Maliki and taking part in numerous sessions held by the Shiite PMF. Many analysts following developments in Iraq found this very significant and interesting.
What is Maliki’s true objective? Can he actually continue to play a role in the political spectrum of Iraq without the support of the Quds Force and Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei himself?
What is clear is that Iranian officials have guaranteed he will enjoy their support in future Iraqi elections. The conditions they have set for their supports is, of course, much more significant than mere propaganda and media support provided by Maliki of Iran’s meddling and their role inside Iraq. The entire issues is based on purchasing weapons from Iran for the armed militias.
The Quds Force, in portraying Maliki’s political road map for the future, has specified a number of phases that Maliki must successfully surpass before the next parliamentary elections milestone. The facts on the ground show that Maliki at first needs to win the support a number of Sunni and Kurdish political figures for his new bid for the prime ministry. In this regard, after his return from Tehran, Maliki held numerous meetings with a number of Sunni political figures whom he enjoyed good relations with during his premiership.
The next phase consists of gaining the West’s support, and especially that of the U.S. administration. Up to a few months ago Maliki was known for his strong position against Washington and its policies in Iraq. From late December 2015 the Iranian embassy in Baghdad ordered Maliki to extend a hand of friendship towards the United States and Western countries, and distance from anti-American remarks. Although Maliki has no official government post he began meeting with foreign envoys in Baghdad and the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq. The objective in these meetings were to portray al-Abadi as a man with a failed administration, and Maliki as an alternative.
Maliki has also been meeting with leaders of religious minorities; tribal sheikhs in southern, central and Anbar provinces; and families of Shiite militias and PMF casualties. This is all under the framework of presenting an all-out and comprehensive image of himself as a popular figure trusted by the people. In one instance in January during a meeting with Shiite militias and PMF members injured and maimed in recent battles Maliki was seen handing out large amounts of money amongst these individuals.
Despite all this, it remains premature to conclude that Maliki is gaining complete control over the prime ministry seat. The fact of the matter is the balance of power game in Iraq is very challenging, and the future of the fight against Daesh is very much intertwined with the next elections in Iraq. One very important necessity is to understand that in the struggle against one “axis of evil”, incentives must not be provided to another. Daesh is the offspring of Maliki’s two terms in power. To eliminate this phenomenon in Iraq it is vital to first and foremost in need of uprooting all elements associated to Tehran. To guarantee Iraq’s future, the United Nations and the al-Abadi administration must not allow the very fragile advances made by the Iraqi people in this trend, coming at the price of hundreds of thousands of people being killed, tortured and disappeared, be destroyed. In fact, by supporting the Iraqi people who have risen to have their demands realized, there must be an end to an era of brothers ki
llings brothers, sectarian wars and massive plundering and thefts.
Keyvan Salami, human right activist writing for peace and progress in the Middle East and regime change in Iran. He Tweets at @SalamiKeyvan