D.Abdul Nasser al-Mahdawi
New Iraq Center Advisor
Translated by Shaimaa Shedeed
The regional and international thrust upon the Iraqi arena these days has different faces. This is due to the formation of new cabinet and the intensification of the US sanctions against Iran after its withdrawal from the nuclear deal. In this context, despite the wide gap between the capabilities of both sides (the US and Iran), the most prominent beneficiary in Iraq is Iran. Most of us believe that unless the US occupied Iraq, Iran and its parties and militias wouldn’t be able to dominate the security and political arena. In fact, this is right 100% especially in the reign of US President Barack Obama who delivered Iraq to Iran on a silver plate. Unlike Obama’s reign, the situation to some extent changed with President Donald Trump and the republicans. In this article, we seek for shedding the light on the indications of the visits of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and US President Trump to Iraq from a limited point of view as the fully briefed understanding is still unattainable in such a hurry. Actually full detailed understanding needs books and analysis of a specialized team of experts!
The analytical corner in such few words in this article is focusing on the source of power for each president in Iraq. Firstly, the power of the US President in Iraq lies in the military base in Ain al-Assad, thus, this base is the standing point of Trump to watch his rival in the Middle East Iran. For that reason, his visit was confined to be without any considerations to the diplomatic customs and without even meeting any Iraqi official while the Iraqi officials thrusts meeting him in their visits to Washington.
About Rouhani, his standing point in Iraq is the doctrine. In his visit in which he also disregarded all diplomatic customs, he began his visit with Moussa Kasem shrine and finalized it with Imam Ali Shrine. During this time, he met with the leading officials in Iraq, tribal chiefs and clans figures after meeting religious leaders and authorities affiliated with his doctrine in Najaf and other Iraqi governorates.
It was therefore clear that Trump’s source of power is the US army and the military forces while Rouhni’spower is the Imamate doctrine that is ruling Iraq today and definitely represented in the Coalitions of Reform and Construction. Thus, Trump’s focus on his forces in his visit was logical so he stated that he would watch Iran from the US military bases and we all agree about the US agenda under the rule of the big tycoon Trump. On the other hand, we may feel lost when trying to analyzing Rouhani’s visit because he takes his power from his doctrine that imposes its domination in the security and political arena and somehow the economic one. In other more accurate words, is Rouhani’s concern to the religious shrines on the account of the diplomatic customs is sincere? In other words, do Rouhani and the Iranian projects deal with the Shiism and the doctrine as goal in itself or as a tool? There is a big difference between both trends.
If Rouhani and the Iranian regime with its conservatives and reformers draw their inspiration from the Shiism in order to achieve gains for the Persian national Iranian project is a matter too different than if those conservatives and reformers seek for achieving the dominance of the doctrine as promoters in order to export it to the whole world. Actually, indications of both situations will help us figuring out the real intentions.
We can assimilate between the Crusades in the middle ages that paved the way for the occupational states to occupy the world and to completely dominate its fortunes regardless the real role of the religion that was only used for occupation and the shiism that targets dominating the states by the expanding national Iranian project that represents the Persian before Islam. Deciding if the shiism is a goal in itself or a tool is a critical matter on the level of Iran and the region in which the Imamate doctrine is widespread, consequently, there is no definite evidences points to the real situation and at the end of the day that who tries to judge the situation should be objective enough away from his personal tendencies.
Rounahni’s visit included worshiping ceremonies related to the doctrine, however, the real purpose of the visit prevailed in his statements as he said “The visit included conversations and understandings in number of commercial topics and affairs such as reducing or cancelling some commodities’ fees, establishing common industrial cities between both states in the energy field and facilitating the business visas . He described the role of the activists and the merchants as important for both sides, underlining that Iraq “is the main destination” of the Iranian exports and that both states have deeply rooted relations. He also added that both states had discussions related to the banking affairs and adopting of both national currencies in the transactions between both states and that they reached a good understandings around regional and security issues.
Rouhani also sought for achieving the main goal of the visit which is using the commons between the Iranian and Iraqi peoples stressing that he touched vitality from the Iraqi people during this visit by the virtue of the deep rooted ties between both nations that can’t be penetrated by any power in the world. He also underlined that during his visit he had stressed the necessity to develop the bilateral ties in the future to be tripartite and quadripartite and to discuss it with other states that can play role in these relations, expecting that visit can a turnoff in both sides relations.
Through these statements, we can touch that the relation with the Iraqi people has two directions; the first one is using Iraq as the lungs from which Iran can take breath after the US sanctions, the second one is using Iraq as a gate for other regional and international relations in order to reach the same objective which is mitigation of the impact of the US ban over Iran after extending the sanctions another year.
This analysis is based on the statements of President Rouhani but if we turn to other analytical direction we can a find a different analysis such as the comments of the US New York Times newspaper. NY Times saw that Rouhani’s visit meant to focus that Tehran was still seeking for expanding its influence in Iraq and that Iran reinforced its domination on Iraq as a part of its regional ambitions. The visit targeted securing the way to the Mediterranean through the friend states in order to be able to transport armaments, to support Hezbollah in Lebanon, to keep helping Bashar al-Assad Army in Syria and to threat Israel. More important, Iranian ambassador to Baghdad said that his state “Considers Iraq the first destination to the Iranian goods and that it wants to outstrip Turkey and China as one of top trade partners for Iraq.”
“Iran is a small body with a big brain, and the United States is a big body with a small brain,” said Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Muslim who was a former speaker of the Iraqi Parliament to NY Times, trying to explain how Iran seemed to have gained upper hand in Iraq. Meanwhile, Adnan al-Zurfi, a Shiite member of the Iraqi Parliament who has lived in the United States, put it succinctly saying “There is no American presence in Iraq, only a military presence.” “By contrast, Iran has insinuated itself into Iraqi political life and the military, and now seeks to expand economically and culturally” he added.
“Cementing its dominance in Iraq is a piece with Iran’s regional ambitions, which aim to secure a route to the Mediterranean through friendly countries, in part so it can ship arms and support to Hezbollah in Lebanon, continue assisting President Bashar Assad’s military in Syria and threaten Israel.”
“Now that Iran has expanded the Shiite armed groups into a political force, much as they have done with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Tehran’s new priority is to increase economic ties with Iraq to offset American sanctions.”
According to Joost Hiltermann, head of Middle East and North Africa Department in the International Crisis Group, Iran has gained influence on some Iraqi political factions which makes the matter of disregarding Teheran demands is so difficult for the Iraqi politicians as the Iraqi people know that Iran is their neighbor. In his interview with the US newspaper he said that Iraq was in need to preserve their relations with Iran and they couldn’t stand its anger because Iran has massive capabilities in reference to Iran’s ability to use its military and political power to undermine the fragile Iraqi government that was formed in hurry and according to the Iranian project in Iraq.
The answer will remain in the Iranian capability to keep the Iraqi role as lungs from which it takes breath under the imposed US sanctions. As a result, it will employ its capabilities and potentials in Iraq to attain this goal while disregarding the sanctions Iraq is exposed to consequently. Iran also doesn’t concern if Iraq kept deteriorated in order to keep its interests including deterioration in oil and power and electricity fields to keep Iraq depending on the Iranian power although Iraq can easily solve the power problem if its leaders have a deep free will. Iran is only busy with its own interests regardless the Iraqi ones, which may point to the reality that Iran deals with the doctrine as a tool rather than a target in itself.