As the Sunni unrest against the Shi'ites in Iraq escalates, the Iranian media is increasingly presenting this unrest as the product of a Sunni-Arab conspiracy led by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey together with the Western superpowers, against Shi'ite Iran and its Shi'ite Allies in the region, that is, in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Various Iranian elements are claiming that because the crisis in Syria remains unresolved, the Sunni insurgency in Iraq is aimed at opening up a new front against the resistance axis – which is largely Shi'ite, comprising Iran, Hizbullah, and the Alawites in Syria.
For example, Majlis National Security Council member Nozar Shafi'i said that Qatar and Turkey are playing a key role in instigating chaos in Iraq, at the request of the U.S. and NATO – which is similar to what is happening in Syria. He stressed that Iran has no intention of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries, but that it must monitor developments in Syria and in Iraq by various means, because these developments could impact Iran itself.
In this context, the conservative Iranian website Baztab issued an unusual message to the regime, calling on it to learn from the mistaken actions it took in the Syrian crisis, and to use its influence with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki to pressure him to include the Sunnis in his country's centers of power. Such a move, Baztab said, would prevent civil war in Iraq that would threaten Iran's security.
This report reviews the main reactions on the major Iranian websites to the Sunni unrest against the Shi'ites in Iraq.
Tabnak: The Conspiracy Against Al-Maliki Threatens Tehran's Interests
In a January 11, 2013 article, the website Tabnak, which is associated with Expediency Council secretary Mohsen Rezai, warned about a conspiracy by Sunni forces in the region – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey – against the Shi'ite forces, especially against Al-Maliki's government in Iraq and against his ally, Iran. Tabnak claimed that Turkey has a long-standing plan to divide Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines, and that it is using the Iraqi Kurds to advance this goal. It warned of the negative consequences Iran could face if the Iraqi government, which it sponsors, should fall. The following are excerpts from the article:
"Several weeks after the outbreak of the acute political conflict in Iraq, the Iraqi parliament announced its endorsement of the plan to oust Nouri Al-Maliki. Under these circumstances, and considering that the changes in Iraq and in the region have been to the detriment of the Iraqi government for quite some time, the future of Iraq's political stability [seems to be] under a cloud...
"These changes, which have culminated in a plan to oust Al-Maliki, resulted from unrest that has been raging in the past two weeks in some of Iraq's Sunni governorates and regions. During this unrest, the protestors made several demands, including one to topple Al-Maliki on the grounds that Iraq's Shi'ite government is discriminating against them. These protests... in the Sunni regions broke out after some bodyguards of Iraq's Sunni finance minister, Rafi' Al-'Issawi, were arrested on charges of terrorism.
"[However], the changes of the last few weeks suggest that the 'Issawi affair was only a pretext, and that the latest actions against the Al-Maliki government were part of an organized plan of domestic [Iraqi] players as well as regional and international players... As part of this plan, Turkey, using the Iraqi Kurds who are also in deep conflict with the central Iraqi government, tried to prepare the ground for the implementation of its old plan to divide Iraq along sectarian and religious lines, and thus to minimize the danger posed by the Kurdish PKK organization.
"Moreover, other Sunni countries in the region – especially Qatar and Saudi Arabia – which have long been embittered by the fact that Iraq has a Shi'ite government, attempted to maximize the pressure on Al-Maliki's government by inciting the [Iraqi] Sunnis. Among the tools they used to realize their plan were several exiled Iraqi figures of ill repute. Turkey, along with Iraqi Kurdistan, invested in the deposed Iraqi vice-president Tareq Al-Hashemi. The sudden appearance of 'Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri, [another] persecuted vice-president of Saddam Hussein, and his statements... could not have been arranged without the coordination and backing of external [elements]. That is beyond a doubt.
"Within Iraq, circles such as the embittered Al-Iraqiyya coalition, which resents the considerable power of the Iraqi Shi'ites and the decline of its own influence in the country, prepared to exploit this atmosphere, in order to advance their own interests. These circles believe that following the destabilization of the [Iraqi] arena, circumstances are ripe for expanding their efforts against the Al-Maliki government.
"In sum, the recent changes in Iraq were instigated by a combination of forces, both domestic and foreign, with the aim of dividing Iraq along tribal and religious [lines] and of presenting the Sunni-Shi'ite rift as acute – so as to pave the way for changing the political power balance in the country by ousting Al-Maliki.
"Finally, it is important to stress that the most basic aim of the conspiracy against Al-Maliki is to diminish Iran's influence on the regional and international level, by severing Tehran's ties with one of its most important regional allies [i.e. Iraq]... [so as to] render the regional situation more conducive to Arab-Western plans."
Iraq – The new bait for Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey
Ebtekar Daily: The Arab-Turkish-Western Triangle Cannot Stand Seeing Baghdad And Damascus In Shi'ite Hands
The moderate-conservative daily Ebtekar likewise claimed, in a January 15, 2013 article, that the crisis in Iraq, like the one in Syria, is not part of the Arab Spring but rather of a Sunni conspiracy of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. The article claimed that this conspiracy also included Western forces, and that the Arab-Turkish-Western triangle, which had not yet managed to realize its project of dividing Damascus, was already attempting to implement this conspiracy in Iraq. It went on to explain that the move against the Iraqi government stemmed from the fact that this triangle cannot stand to see these two capitals, Baghdad and Damascus, in Shi'ite hands.
"Regarding the Syrian issue, everyone now agrees that certain Arab countries – particularly Qatar and Saudi Arabia – that claim to support the Sunnis have joined forces with Turkey, which aspires to revive the Sunni Ottoman empire, and [together] they are attempting to topple the central rule in Damascus... That is, having failed to complete the project of dividing [Syria] and weakening Damascus, the Arab-Turkish-Western triangle has launched an identical plan for [Syria's] neighbor to the East [Iraq], and is now engaged in trial and error [in an attempt to implement it]... This triangle of external forces... is now upsetting the explosive balance in Iraq..."
'Sobh-e Sadeq': Qatar Fanning Flames Of Conflict In Iraq
An article in Sobh-e Sadeq, the daily of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), accused Qatar of instigating riots in Iraq via Al-Jazeera TV, with the aim of toppling the Al-Maliki government – because, it said, Al-Maliki, in the framework of his ties with Iran, is helping Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad fight the Syrian rebels. The article, titled "Syrian Scenario Recurring In Iraq," also mentions Saudi Arabia and Turkey as co-conspirators against Al-Maliki:
"In recent days, Al-Jazeera has tried to instigate a crisis in Iraq in order to promote Qatar's interests. [To this end,] it has made many efforts to spread lies about the developments in Iraq, in an attempt to repeat the Syrian scenario [in Iraq] by means of media and psychological warfare...
"The channel dispatched its correspondent to various cities in Iraq, including Baghdad, Mosul, Al-Ramadi and Fallujah, to cover every possible riot – in order to instigate changes similar to those in Syria. Trying to incite the Iraqi protesters, Al-Jazeera called [their protests] 'Friday of Honor' demonstrations, in an attempt to liken them to the [Arab Spring] revolutions in the region...
"[The channel] also claimed that the Iraqi military had fired on demonstrators in Mosul, wounding several, and that it had even broadcast sounds of gunfire to substantiate its claim and inflame the situation... Not content with this, the... Arab leaders began operating an experimental Ba'thist television channel, Al-Fallujah, in Iraq. In recent days, [this channel] aired several songs, images, and films about the [1980-88] Iran-Iraq war and about operations by the [Iraqi] organization called Martyrdom for Saddam...
"According to media reports, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hammad held secret meetings with several Iraqi figures in an attempt to extend the unrest in Iraq... These reports indicate that Qatar pays every protestor in the Al-Anbar governorate $50 a day.
"Following the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq – 60% of whose population is Shi'ite – tried to draw up a new foreign policy and to strengthen its political and security ties with Iran and Russia, and to join the resistance axis. Accordingly, Baghdad was not indifferent to [Syria's] fate; [rather, the Iraqi] leadership explicitly supported [the Syrian regime]. This was reason enough for the Arab-Western axis to be hostile to Iraq...
"Now, this [Arab-Western] axis is trying to weaken the independent Iraqi government, in the belief that this will expedite the arrival of the so-called 'Free Syrian Army' in Damascus.
"In this context, we should also mention the ties between Iraqi exiles and the Saudi [royal] Al-Sa'ud family, and Saudi Arabia's support of various circles in Iraq, as well as Turkey's role in implementing the American plan to divide Iraq into three regions – Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish."
Baztab: Civil War In Iraq Could Endanger Iran's Security
A January 14, 2013 article on the Baztab website, titled "We Have Lost Syria – Save Iraq," called on the regime to learn from its mistakes in the Syria crisis and to pressure Al-Maliki to involve the Sunnis in the centers of power before too much time passed and Iraq becomes another Syria. The article explained that the unrest was likely to deteriorate into civil war, which would endanger Iran's security and interests in the region.
Following are the main points of the article:
"The changes in recent years in Iraq, and its explosive [situation], have the potential to turn into severe unrest and civil war... Under such circumstances, Iran, as one of the main players in Iraq and supporter of the Al-Maliki government, can take the initiative – [even] before the political conflict escalates and the political circles join to form a quasi-military coalition – to pressure the prime minister [Al-Maliki] to advance a plan that will open up the political space and reduce the pressure on the Al-Iraqiyya faction, and even lead to its greater participation in the regime. It should be noted that Nouri Al-Maliki himself was accused by the Al-Iraqiyya coalition of monopolizing the rule and of marginalizing the Sunnis.
"We must not allow the grave political chasm that has now reached society to turn Iraq into another Syria. The signs of the emergence of the events that followed area already showing... [that] disregard and denial of reality, as happened in the initial stages of the Syrian crisis, will solve nothing. If the opening of the political arena to [allow] meaningful participation of other circles [i.e. Sunnis] in the regime comes too late, it will undermine security in the country's border towns, and this will concern everyone.
"If Iraq goes down the same path as Syria, this will mean in effect a significant deterioration in Iran's influence in the region, as well as a threat to Iran's interests, and even to Iran's security."
*Y. Mansharof is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.
 Icana.ir, January 19, 2013.
 Tabnak (Iran), January 11, 2013.
 In a rare appearance in January 2013, Al-Douri, who was vice president under Saddam Hussein, said: "What is happening in Iraq today, especially the bombings and the collaborator government, is [part of] a Safavid-Persian plan that Al-Maliki has been implementing for the past seven years in order to destroy Iraq and annex it to Iran. My men and I are considering retaliating against anyone, soldier or civilian, who supports this plan in Iraq. We support the rebels in Al-Anbar and Ninveh, and we will stand firm against any attack on our brothers, the Kurds. Alarabiya.net, January 4, 2013.
 Fars (Iran), January 16, 2013.
 Ebtekar (Iran), January 15, 2013.
 Sobh-e Sadeq (Iran), January 14, 2013.
 Baztab.net (Iran), January 14, 2013.