March 13, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 7938

Against Backdrop Of Iranian President Rohani's Visit To Baghdad, 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed Warns Iraq Not To Become An Iranian Proxy

March 13, 2019
Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 7938

Against the backdrop of Iranian President Hassan Rohani's recent visit to Baghdad, senior Saudi journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, head of the editorial board of the Alarabiya and Alhadath television channels, wrote that Iran is exerting intense pressures on Iraq in order to turn it into its proxy. Iran, he said, is trying to use Iraq as a shield against the effects of the U.S. sanctions, and also expects Iraq to bankroll its militias and to give up its own interests in favor of Iran. However, there is no reason for Iraq to pay the price of Iran's troubles, especially since Iran brought them on with by refusing to give up its nuclear program and its extremist policies of spreading chaos in other countries.  Al-Rashed warned Iraq not to become an Iranian proxy like Lebanon, lest it lose everything it has achieved since regaining its stability.

The following are excerpts from his article:[1]

Iran's "Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps" (IRGC) extends an olive branch to "Iraq" while threatening it with a rifle under the table (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, March 12, 2019)

"Iranian President Hassan Rohani's visit to Baghdad – his first since assuming office six years ago – was part of the intense pressures that the Iranian regime is exerting on Iraq in an attempt to find shelter in this country from the American sanctions. But Iraq is not a lifeline [for Iran], it is a large country that is part of the geographic-historical-religious fabric of the region, along with Saudi Arabia and Iran. Amid the intensifying regional and global political conflict, Iraq, specifically, is in the middle [between Iran and Saudi Arabia]. In light of these [Iranian] pressures and threats, should we be concerned that Iraq may become an Iranian proxy?  

"Iran managed to penetrate the Iraqi arena after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and it even took part in removing the U.S. presence [from this country] by supporting the Sunni and Shiite armed groups. Iran wants to turn Iraq into another banana republic under its [control], like Lebanon, and into a source for recruiting militants to fight on its behalf around the world, as the fighters under the command of Qassem Soleimani are now doing in Syria. It wants Iraq to bankroll the Lebanese Hizbullah for it, as well as Assad's government in Syria, with billions of dollars. It wants Iraq to be like Lebanon, a weak country without a strong government, controlled by militias subordinate to [Iran], like 'Asaeb [Ahl] Al-Haq and other Iraqi militias of its kind.

"But Iraq is a large country with interests and aspirations that are not identical to the interests and ideas of the fanatic Iranian theocracy. Iran is a country under siege, whereas Iraq is open to the world and is currently in the best condition it has known since 1990... It is undergoing development that will turn it into the wealthiest country in the region, more suited to the role of a free and independent master than to the role of some other country's servant.

"[Iraqi] Prime Minister 'Adil Abdul-Mahdi knows more than us [Saudis] about Iraq's affairs, and is well aware of the options he faces. He knows that when his guest, Rohani, says in Tehran [on March 11, 2019], 'We supported the Iraqi people in difficult times,' he expects Abdul-Mahdi to give up the interests of his country. Iran would not have been under siege if it had agreed to give up its nuclear program and stop exporting chaos, revolutions and military interventions [to other countries]. Why should the Iraqis pay the price of Iran's extremist policy?

"Iran is currently under a heavier siege than ever before. Its tankers float abandoned in the ocean, and it cannot sell its rugs, pistachios and vegetables for dollars. Even Russia and China – the two countries on which it was counting as it prepared to battle the Americans – have abandoned it and severed their trade relations with it. Iran does not have to wage these battles. Its regime chose to fulfil this evil role in the region, and therefore deserves to deal with this situation and face the [kind of] siege that Saddam Hussein once faced.

"The Iraqis must realize that this is a global war and that they might lose everything they have gained since the situation [in Iraq] stabilized and Baghdad regained control [of the country]. [Muhammad] Zarif, [Qassem] Soleimani and all the [other] Iranian officials who visited Baghdad want to turn [Iraq] into an Iranian proxy. Lebanon serves as a lesson for all to see. Since the 1980s it has been fighting and suffering in Iran's stead, and if [Iraq becomes an Iranian proxy], it will fare no better than Lebanon, which is torn to shreds."


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 12, 2019.

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