Iranian Foreign Policy In Iraq Following Defeat Of ISIS

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Iranian Foreign Policy In Iraq Following Defeat Of ISIS

Written by Dennis M. Nilsen exclusively for SouthFront

With the recent advances made by the Syrian Arab Army together with the Russian Air Forces in Syria against ISIS, coupled with the continuous pushing back of the same group in Iraq by the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), the end of the upstart caliphate pretending to the title of ‘Islamic State’ is very close at hand.  Essential to the turning of the tide against the terrorist group in both countries has been the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose aid to the Iraqi Republic occurred most visibly in the creation and direction of Shia militias, whose work provided much-needed aid and spirit to the efforts of the regular armed forces.  With the war all but won, it remains to be seen what direction the Persian state will take in its relations with its coreligionist neighbor, which until the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 was placed at direct odds both to its spirit and its regional ambitions.

The speedy US victory against Iraq in 2003 and the de-Baathification of the country was greeted with unrestrained cheers by both sides of the Western liberal establishment, but the applause died down as the proofs of Hussein’s alleged anti-American and terrorist plans evaporated upon close inspection.  While the historical record could be rectified by the American congressional 9/11 Commission, turning back the clock in Iraq could not be done, and while the enormous vacuum created by the invasion meant an opening for Western NGOs and corporations, it also opened the door to increased influence of Iran.

In Iran – and in Iraq – the US invasion was viewed with both anger and rejoicing.  For Iran specifically, in the short term, there was anger about the invasion because it meant the introduction of the armed forces of a hostile state just across their borders; it also extended the influence of Israel to Baghdad which could have meant the creation of a state-sized leveraging tool of the Zionist-American alliance.  However, some took a longer view of the situation, that the US did what their own forces had been unable to do by repeated attempts at invasion during the Iran-Iraq War: to unseat Saddam Hussein and disestablish his secular Arab nationalist Ba’athist regime.  From very early on in the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini had publicly called on the Iraqis to rise up and overthrow Hussein, and particularly made overtures to the Kurds to rebel against Baghdad, with the purpose of weakening the state as a whole and making it that much more susceptible to an Iranian-led establishment of a like regime.  With the Ba’athist régime out of the way and the Iraqi dictator dead, more than half of the effort had been done gratis, with the Iranians looking on as would spectators at a football match.  Despite the best efforts of the administrations of George W. Bush and Barrack Obama, Iran has continued to fill that vacuum with increasing success, due to the twin American sins of lack of resolve to finish a job and a simplicity and ignorance when it comes to foreign cultures.

Iran’s influence in Iraq is now seemingly at its height due to the war on ISIS and its essential help in creating, supplying, training and directing Shiite militias.  In addition to this military influence, Iran shares a religious character with a large majority of the Iraqis.  Lastly, there is an economic connection due to the juxtaposition of the two countries and the great potential for cooperation within the petroleum sector due to contiguous territories along the Shatt al-Arab and the Persian Gulf.

Iran without a doubt wishes to continue this high level of influence in Iraq, and because of these links between the two countries it is very well suited to do so.  With the end of the war serving as a breakpoint, it is very apropos to discuss what Iranian foreign policy will be towards its neighbor upon the cessation of hostilities.

What guides Iranian policy?  Who determines it?  What is its motive?  According to the Iranian Constitution, the purpose of the state is to concretize the Revolution at home and to further its spread throughout the world.  To note its language: “In particular, in the development of international relations, the Constitution will strive with other Islamic and popular movements to prepare the way for the formation of a single world community (in accordance with the Koranic verse “This your community is a single community, and I am your Lord, so worship Me” [Koran 21:92]), and to assure the continuation of the struggle for the liberation of all deprived and oppressed peoples in the world” (Preamble).  The personal doctrines of the Ayatollah Khomeini directed the adoption of this purpose, and the Ayatollah Khamenei continues it.

The goal of Iranian foreign policy having been established, the question may be asked, who determines its precise working?  The main policy-making body for the Islamic Republic in areas of national and regional defense is the Supreme National Security Committee, and since its relations with Iraq are intricately tied to its national defense, it cannot be doubted that this body determines foreign policy towards that country.  Of the thirteen members, six owe their membership either directly or indirectly to the Supreme Leader; five are presidential appointees, and the remaining two are President Hassan Rouhani himself and the Speaker of the Majlis, Ali Larijani.  As any governmental policy must have the approval of the Supreme Leader, whose interests are forwarded by his two personal representatives, the policy formulations of the Council will follow the direction of what Ayatollah Khamenei believes to be in the best interest of the Islamic Republic.  Since Ali Khamenei is a devoted disciple of Ruhollah Khomeini, we can generally say that the foreign policy towards Iraq will continue to have a confessional character of friendship based upon the shared religion of Shia Islam.

The fall of the Ba’athist regime was the biggest regional shift in the balance of power since the end of World War II, and it has been favorable to Iran.  As long as Hussein remained in power and the secular Arab nationalist ideology officially guided the country, Iran had a potential enemy at its gates.  Now, with the absolute majority which their Shia co-religionists make in the country properly expressed through popular elections to the national assembly, the Iranians have found a government led by the Shia with a legitimacy admitted by the very countries of the West who now look on in dismay at the friendly relations between the two neighbors.  The foreign policy of Iran towards Iraq ever since the fall of Saddam has been to strengthen this newly-found friendship and to make Shia-led Iraq a solid member of the ‘Axis of Resistance’ to the Zionist regime and its allies, the Americans and the British.

How precisely has this be done?  The reason for the close relations for the past three years has been the control by ISIS of large swaths of the countryside and of its capture and occupation of Mosul.  The Iranian-guided popular militias have been instrumental in pushing ISIS out of Mosul and to the Syrian border.  It has been clearly stated by both governments that military cooperation against extremism will continue after the fall of ISIS, but the particular question of the purpose of the militias within Iraqi society approaches to the fore the closer ISIS’ doom becomes.  How will the Iraqi and Iranian governments justify the continued existence of the militias?  Will the Sunni minority allow this?  If the two governments can make the case for their continuing usefulness in the fight against residual extremism, then it is arguable their corps will remain in place, albeit with less numbers.

There have also been some instances of personal interaction between public officials of both countries which signal a continuing closeness of relations.  On July 23, Iraqi Defense Minister Erfan al-Hiyali visited Tehran and met with Ali Larijani; according to IRNA, he publicly thanked Iran for its “brotherly and cordial cooperation” throughout the last three years and called on the countries to reinforce their ties.  He and Larijani then signed an agreement to increase military cooperation and to continue to fight terrorism and extremism.  Also, according to INRA, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Ja’afari expressed to Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Jaberi Ansari at a meeting in Baghdad that same day that, “If it were not for Iran, Iraq would have been lost.”  Mr. Ansari also exchanged a friendly symbolic meeting with Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives Salim al-Jabouri, who is a member of the Muttahidoon Party and a Sunni.

On July 30, Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi met with Adviser to the Iraqi Foreign Minister Ihsan al-Awadi and Former Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Mohammad Bahr al-Ulloum to promote relations in all areas, especially economic ones.  He noted that Iran is fully prepared to aid Iraq in rebuilding its infrastructure and economy.

On July 31, Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar Ali Hussein Al-Luiebi and Iranian Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh signed an agreement to construct an oil pipeline to carry Iraqi crude from the fields around Kirkuk to the Persian Gulf via Iran.  This would obviate the need for Iraq to move the oil through Kurdistan to the Mediterranean via Turkey.

On August 5, Iraqi President Fuad Masum, the Chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar Hakim, and Speaker al-Jabouri assisted at the swearing-in ceremony of Hassan Rouhani.

Lastly, the graduation of 130 students from Ferdowsi University at the end of July drew a favorable comment from Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Mehdi Salehi on the continuing closeness of the two countries at all levels.

One topic which has drawn not a few comments from the Iranians is the upcoming referendum on the secession of Kurdistan from the Iraqi Republic, scheduled for November of this year.  Ali Larijani mentioned it in his meeting with al-Hiyali, arguing firmly against it.

These interactions are but a portion of a series of meetings between senior government and economic leaders held in the past several weeks.

Overall, the Government of Haider al-Abadi has proved friendly to Iran and it looks to continue in the same vein; by far the largest number of seats are held by Shiite political movements, and over half of the seats of the Iraqi Council of Representatives are held by constituent parties of the governing National Iraqi Alliance: the State of Law Coalition, the Sadrist Al-Ahrar Bloc, the Al-Muwatin (Citizen Alliance), and the Badr Organization.  The Government coalition is unwieldy, but much less so than when Nouri al-Maliki was prime minister.

Based upon this information, it is clear that Iran will continue to build on the close ties it already enjoys with Iraq.  This will in turn mean Iraq becoming a stronger Iranian ally and moving ever further away from the US/Israeli/Gulf States orbit.

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  • Barba_Papa

    I’m still amazed by the sheer ignorance by the US and the West, that at no point in time did they ever stop and wonder what would happen if you put a former repressed Shia majority into power in Iraq, and why on Earth would they not seek to ally and improve relations with their Shia brethren in Iran?

    They really haven’t got no clue at all about the Islamic world and the Shia/Sunni divide.

    • Bru

      they did not think,
      but just followed Israel which emotionaly reacted because Irak had sent a few scuds in the direction of the Zionist occupiers of Palestine (a mere symbolic gesture to maintain popular support, no real threat),
      combined which a surge of resentment based on the Old Testament stories that ancient Babylon would had taken away ritual tools of the Jerusalem temple, so out of vengeance they wanted the prestigious Baghad museum to be plundered.

      So completely emotional and stupid, just as the present (Israel and Western backed ) war against Syria.

    • Pave Way IV

      The CIA made it happen on purpose, Barba_Papa. Their hand-picked man, Nuri al-Maliki, was the first newly-elected PM after the temporary government. He had been living in exile in Iran for 22 years coordinating anti-Baathist terrorists. When he returned to Iraq (prior to his election) he headed the security forces – the assassination teams De-Baathifying Baghdad. He also made himself into a millionaire through theft of the returned Iraqi assets and oil money. He’s a psychopath and mob boss. He actually doesn’t think too much of Iranians, but understands the way he can extort the US by suggesting Iran’s influence. He plays all sides – whatever gives him more power and money. Keep the US worried about Iran, and the bags of money keep arriving. The CIA couldn’t see that in him when they picked him because they’re psychopaths, too.

      The Iraqis are Arabs and the Iranians are Persians – simply being Shia does not make them ‘brothers’. The Shia Iraqis will never let themselves be ruled by Shia Iranians. There’s bad blood that goes back centuries. They had a common enemy in Saddam’s Baathists and have in al Qaeda and ISIS, but that’s about it. ‘Iranian influence’ in Iraq (and even Syria) is mostly hype.

      • Barba_Papa

        I know that the Iranians are Persians, I’ve actually been there. And Arabs and Persians don’t like each other, much to the chagrin of the Iranian Mullahs. But the thing is though, the Sunni heads of the Gulf states, the ones that finance all the headchoppers, they really don’t like Shia Arabs either. They don’t like it that Iraq is now under Shia control and that basically condemns the Iraqi Shia to the only ally that they have in the region. Same with the Lebanese Shia and Syria. When everyone is against you you don’t have the luxury to be picky with your friends.

      • Serious

        Sunnis Arabs hate Shias Arabs. So, it will not be very difficult for shias Arabs to stand with Iranians that don’t kill them every time they can.

        • Wahid Algiers

          Right. And a shia collaboration in the region is urgently needed to face USrael and kurdish proxies. But I hope both Syria and Iraq will show after the wars that it is possible to live together with these Sunnis and christs who fought very hard against the enemies alongside with shia soldiers and militias. 100% in Syria and partly in Iraq Sunnis, Shias and christs fight together against western and israel envoyed hostile rats.

    • Attrition47

      Really? It looks more like the Washington barbarians tried to reinvent the obsolete Sunni-Shia antagonism and failed. The various Sunni potentates still left must be feeling rather nervous, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”. ;o)

      • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

        Yes very uneasy in Bahrain and elsewhere.

  • Ronald

    If any nation deserves the opportunity to help in the reconstruction of Iraq and Syria , it is Iran . As they are local to the area , and cultures , their presence would be beneficial .
    Al Qaeda in Syria is far from conquered , and really the PMU’s help will be needed more than ever with them , as they seem to be more financially favored, and armed by the Americans . While it is wonderful to see the end of ISIS is near , the Wahhabi Sunni’s in HTS , or Al Qaeda are equally evil to ISIS and must be destroyed .

  • chris chuba

    Why would the Shiite militias disband, has Hezbollah disbanded just because Lebanon has a national military? As long as the Iraqi national forces are unproven the existence of the militias can be justified on the grounds that they are needed to supplement Iraq’s national defense.

    • Attrition47

      Lebanon isn’t free of zionist occupiers.

    • Solomon Krupacek

      this is depending upon state poitics. if exist different paramilitary forces, the country is not united.

      • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

        That isn’t true about different paramilitary units , because that already exists in the US and elsewhere.

        • Solomon Krupacek

          you are completely wrong.

          in usa axist only official forces. given ba federal law!!!

          some mercenary organiations are not paramilitary organizations and they can be active ONLY in abroad.

          try to form Geneal Lee Patriotic Army in virginia. beacuse hezbollah is only such rcist organisation (here instead of nation is religion). kurds are same shit.

          • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

            Where do you get your information out an asshat box, the US state system has National Guards and private militias abound in the US. Hezbollah is not really racist the only ones whom are Racist are Wahhabi and Salafi ideology along with the nation of racists is Israel you should check out some of the Empire files on YouTube.

          • Solomon Krupacek

            national gurad is unified force. completely other issue then hezbollah. in none of north-atlantic country exist such paramilitaryorganizations like hezbollah or in syria, iraq. about mercenary organizations ai wrote already. these are the xours so calle private militias. they have no right to do anything in usa.
            paramilitary organizations MUST be forbidden in normal country.

          • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

            The guards are only responsible to the local state government you have no concept how they work you must not understand how they work. Hizbollah means party of God and many such organizations have local militias , they have been around in Europe and elsewhere. Why are acting so ignorant of these things , they may have ended in some regions of the EU ,now look at Ukraine with the Right Sektor and Azov brigade and other right leaning fascist groups supporting the govt none of those are national armies but militias of the Neo-Nazi variety. Who are you to say anything different of these groups, you really know nothing in that regard.

          • Solomon Krupacek

            yes, sure, rsponsible to local goventment. like police. and like police, also in case of NG is unified system. exist in each state. not like kurds, desert hawks, hezbollagh, for 1 part of population. NG servs to all citizens in that state. like police.
            you should finish your game. either you are stupid, or you think, the others are. childish game.

          • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

            The Euphrates Hawks is part of the Syria military as for other Militias like I said do exist some states upwards of 4 0r 5 such groups and they are not connected to the NG, you seem to be not to cognizant of them The US states are usually have a minumum of 1 no matter which state it is.

          • Solomon Krupacek

            i know, there are lot of unfunctional states, like syria. BUT! in the beginning i wrote, that IF the government of 1 country decides to dissolve paramilitary units, this is correct step. we will se, what will happen in iraq.

            btw., assad also is against kurdish paramilitary groups. ;)

          • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

            The sad fact is no one wants to dissolve paramilitary groups especially in the US.What the US will use the unpopular SDF in Northern Syria currently many in the Northern Syria resent the PYD and it’s corrupt system of govt, which only has popularity in the western media. The YPG/PYD so far none are happy with them, as they see their money being kept and used by the PYD/YPG for their own purposes.

            The Majority see themselves as Syrian in the North which will be a problem for the US and possibly why they are entrenching themselves in the region.

            The problem is Hizbollah will remain as long as there are colonial aspirations by the US or any other player/s. The Kurdish paramilitaries would still come under Syrian law and would be required to disband if Assad requested it just as the others would , but those are mostly foreign groups. The man was smart enough to create reserve units for the military with the existing groups.

    • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

      They won’t disband the PMUs and redistribution of these into actual Prime Minister’s Guard units but the possibility of disbanding the ERD teams might be necessary and redistributing some of them to other military units, and dispatching some to the police to prevent any influence of the US.The reason to redistribute the ERD teams would be due to bad political image.

  • SOF

    This is the best hope for peace in the Middle East in many decades. Iran has historically been an ally of Russia and China as to do otherwise would be annihilation by the Zionists. Iran in turn stabilizing Iraq (and Egypt and its Suez Canal under Al-Sisi is friendly to Russia) means large chunks of the Middle East that pulls the real economic power with the One Belt One Road future will become part of the Eurasian Alliance that proposes trade and infrastructure building with the AIIB.

    Essentially the Anglo-American empire with its Midas Touch of Fail spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of soldiers to hand the Middle East over to its superpower rivals.

    • Solomon Krupacek

      iran is islamic state. such country is not ally for russia.

      • SOF

        Read up on General Soleimani who was the war planner for Russian intervention in Syria from September 2015

        • Solomon Krupacek

          1 general is only 1 guy. the politics are not made by generals. theocratic islamic stae should not be friend for russia. then russia writes itself out from the list ov civilized countires. china also keeps distance from iran (and also from syria – therefore only medical help)