A few days ago, Iranian Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi gave a demagogic speech in which he called for a union between Iran and Iraq. This statement lacks the basic objective conditions. First, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki is not the man who can lead Iraq to that direction. Second, the Arab Shiites will refuse to allow their country become a satellite Persian state. Iraqi thinker, Hassan Elwi — from a very prominent Shiite family — repeated the same argument. Additionally, President of Kurdistan region Massoud Barzani said that Iraq is inching toward a dictatorship similar to the one during Saddam Hussein. Al-Maliki is consolidating his grip on all Iraqi security and sovereign institutions. He confirmed that this situation under Maliki could push for alternative options including a no-confidence motion and a new understanding with the Iraqi List. Implicit in Barzani’s threat was the option for secession!
Iraqi Vice President Tariq Al-Hashemi had to flee Baghdad for Irbil when he realized that Al-Maliki was planning to assassinate him with a series of charges of terrorism. Al-Maliki had accused Iyad Allawi before and he would not hesitate to misuse and abuse his authority to hurt others. The visit of Tariq Al-Hashemi and Barzani to Turkey and their meeting with the Turkish prime minister was indicative and means that Ankara has been closely following the developments in the Iraqi political scene. Previously, Al-Maliki summoned the Turkish ambassador to discuss government’s statements but he did not summon the Iranian ambassador who had started talking on behalf of the Iraqi government. Some Iraqi members to the Parliament such as Hassan Elwi and Zafi Al-Ani called for the expulsion of the Iranian ambassador from Baghdad. But does Al-Maliki have the guts to reproach the Iranian ambassador?
Evidently, Al-Maliki is following the Iranian regional policy. When Tehran asks him to support Syrian President Bashar Assad with weapons and money he does that. When Iran asks him to criticize the Arab Gulf states he does that! Whenever he feels that his political survival is at risk he runs to Tehran for rescue forgetting that there is an elected Parliament that should be key to policy formulation in Iraq.
Iran manipulates the region. It supports Assad, protesters in Bahrain, and uses Iraq to confront Turkey. But Iraqis confirm that Iran is under an illusion and is fooling itself if it thinks that its influence in Iraq is going to last. Simply put, Iran cannot keep reinforcing its presence relying on marginalizing Iraq, a Shiite man from the south of Iraq said.
Ankara hosted the negotiations for the Iranian nuclear program. Additionally, the Turkish prime minister carried a message from President Obama to Tehran. Iran knows that short of giving up on the nuclear program a war with Israel in July will be difficult to avert. The Israelis gave Iran until June before Tel Aviv strikes! Although Ankara is different from Iran in its political approach, it does not want Tehran to put the Muslim world in an awkward position.
Iran is not negotiating with the West on the nuclear program but on a regional role. This is taking place amid the Syrian revolution and Iran’s race so that Assad holds on to power.
Saleh Mutlaq, an Iraqi deputy in the Parliament said that neighboring countries should respect the sovereignty of Iraq and that the Iraqi prime minister should not transform Iraq into an arena for regional score settling. The question is how to read these positions and why Tehran competes with Ankara at a time that the Turkish prime minister was visiting Tehran. Does realpolitik entails that Iran maneuver in this way? Does either Tehran or Ankara look for the interest of the region? Do these interests contradict each other’s and where?
Obviously, the political reality in the region is changing. Additionally, it is Iran rather than Turkey that fears the Arab Spring. This cannot be truer if Assad falls! There are more than one state that supports the change in Syria especially after China told the United States that it adopts a hands-off policy with regard to Assad and after Moscow has begun changing its previous policies. Rubbing salt in the wound, Iran is being rejected in the region at a time Arabs respect the Turkish case and model. At least, Ankara does not interfere in Arabs’ affairs the way Tehran does.
Iran’s unqualified support for Al-Maliki has contributed to forming a broad Sunni-Shiite-Arab-Kurd front against Al-Maliki. His most recent visit to Tehran was a statement of his political bankruptcy and an indication of his near downfall. His approach is similar to that of Saddam Hussein’s and this reminds them of the dictatorship era that Iraqis detest. Tehran faces a lot of complexities. Therefore, the downfall of Assad is a red line that cannot be taken easily. Added to this is the situation of Al-Maliki in Tehran.
To make matters worse for Tehran, some Shiites even expect that Hezbollah’s leader may face a sad future. They expect a kind of a turnabout in the political landscape among the Shiites in Iraq that Iran cannot anticipate.
Despite the fact that Russians and Iranians are helping Assad in managing his dispute with the world, Assad has failed. He failed in deciding the matters in a military fashion after his bloody crackdown on his own people. He reached a point where a few Syrians would be able to deal with him let alone agree with him. Irrespective of the fact whether the regional conflict is political or sectarian, it is obvious that corruption and dictatorship are bound to fall. Syrians rejected both corruption and dictatorship and Iraqis did that before. Will they accept to come under dictatorship one more time even if it comes under the cloak of Iranian influence? I think that the language and the balance of power today are different from the past. Therefore, surprises lie ahead.