After the arrival of Donald Trump’s administration to the White House on 20 January 2017, the US administration returned to the use of sanctions weapon against Tehran. In February 2017, Washington announced new sanctions on 13 individuals and 12 Iranian entities believed to be involved in the missile program and to support the terrorist activities, this came after the Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hussein Dahqan revealed that his country conducted a missile test, saying it does not violate the nuclear agreement signed with the six major countries in 2015, nor the UN resolution 2231, which ratified the agreement. The US Treasury Department – in a statement on its Web site – said , the sanctions include the freezing of the interests and properties if these entities and the prohibition of American citizens to deal with them and It indicated that a number of these entities are based in Lebanon , China and the United Arab Emirates , as well as Iran . The treasury department considered that what it described as Iran’s continued support for terrorism and the development of its missile program to pose a threat to the region and to the United States’ allies around the world. Iran, for its part, stressed that it would “take similar measures” and will target “American individuals and companies” supporting “terrorist” groups.
On September 8, the administration of US President Donald Trump re-imposed sanctions against Iran noting that the positions of Iraqi officials on compliance with the sanctions were contradicting. The aim of the sanctions is to increase pressure on it to change its political positions and it’s nuclear and missile programs after US President Donald Trump announced in May his withdrawal from the nuclear deal signed in 2015. The sanctions also target Iran’s purchases of the US dollar, metal and coal trade, software for industry and automotive sector and US imports of Iranian food and carpets, and Trump threatened companies dealing with Iran that it would lose the US market.
The re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran, including secondary sanctions that may be applied to other countries deal with it , led to a conflict in the positions of Iraqi officials on compliance with the implementation of these sanctions, while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi announced Baghdad’s commitment to new US sanctions imposed on Iran saying: ” we do not interact and sympathize with them, but we will abide by it for the purpose of the protection of the interests of the Iraqi people,” and Abadi has canceled a planned visit to Iran next Wednesday against the backdrop that his visit is not welcomed by Tehran after Iraq’s commitment to US sanctions imposed on it, and Mojtbi Husseini – the representative of Iran’s supreme leader(Murshed ) Ayatollah Ali Khamniavi in Iraq in a statement , said last Sunday that Abadi’s statements are irresponsible and not in line with the fidelity towards the positions of Iran and its support for Iraq in its war on the organization of the state , ISIS.
While Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari rejected US sanctions on Iran in a statement of the ministry, where the official spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said : “Iraq rejects the principle of the embargo on any country, which affects fundamentally the peoples of different social segments ,” adding: “As Mujtaba al-Husseini Representative of Ali Khamenei in Iraq said , that “the irresponsible statements of the Iraqi prime minister don’t not comply with the fidelity towards the honorable positions of the Islamic Republic and the blood of martyrs which were shed to defend Iraq and cleanse the land from the dirt of ISIS.”
So far, more than 40 political parties and movements in Iraq have declared their position on US sanctions, except the “popular crowd” factions, and finally joined by religious institutions and even research and academic institutions , and commercial companies in a show that seemed like a race between them to register a position that satisfies Iran , and at the same time , it is considered an attacking position on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who appeared alone in the Iraqi arena with his stated position in the commitment to US sanctions on Iran and not deal with it by the dollar.
In this context, Iraqi officials in Baghdad said that political parties condemned the sanctions against Iran, but secretly welcomed them, they find an opportunity to get rid of the Iranian hegemony over Iraq, while others see a glimmer of hope for the possibility of changing the political equation in the country access to a civilian non-sectarian Iraq governed by institutions and a one law and no authority for clerics or sectarian parties in it.
Experts of Iraqi affairs see that the Iranian affairs are important for the Iraqis, Lebanese and Yemenis , and even for the other Gulf states “But at the same time they share Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s position that the interest of Iraq is the first and foremost, and should not be there a courtesy on its account , and they see the need to abide by sanctions to prevent harm to Iraqis ,” and they noted that any US economic tightening on Iraq will crush the entire poor class, while Iran has export outlets other than Iraq and has many elements, but Iraq’s economy is rent based on oil and any harm will be catastrophic.
They pointed out that the pressure on Tehran now means that there is hope to ease its silence on Iraq and let the Iraqi people draw his future with his hand, not by the clerics and religious sheikhs affiliated with Tehran. They added “There is public pressure within Iran on the regime and this is good for Iraq and its future , we all know that Iran will not change its policy in Iraq, which will not be independent and will not return a civilian Arab except by leaving Tehran to it , and this is impossible unless there is international pressure on it, the same is true in Syria and Lebanon, “pointing out that the political parties announced the opposite of what is hidden, and this alone enough to know the extent of Iranian hegemony in the country.
They said that the Iraqi government is required to consider with the interest of its people in dealing with this complex file for it , pointing out that these sanctions will have negative and catastrophic effects on the Iraqi position in the event of refusal to apply. They pointed out that one of the most important sanctions to be imposed on Iraq is the abstention of the world countries to buy Iraqi oil, which is the backbone of the Iraqi economy, pointing out that Iraq currently has no source to provide its budget other than oil. They also pointed out that among the sanctions are freezing Iraqi assets in the United States, depriving Iraq of international financial and banking transactions, and canceling all financial agreements with international organizations. Thus, no investment or commercial company can enter Iraq, especially since Iraq is on the threshold of reconstruction. They indicated to the danger of banning the importation of equipment, vehicles and weapons, since Iraq is currently experiencing unstable security conditions, especially since the UN report confirmed the presence of 20,000 fighters of the terrorist elements of the organization ISIS in Iraq.
For their part, economic analysts follow the Iraqi issue indicated to the existence of many alternatives to imported Iranian goods, but the danger lies in the lack of control of the state on the pro-Iran factions. They said that imported Iranian goods do not exceed the milk and some vegetables and household electrical materials, indicating that there are many countries can rely on as an alternative to Iran, to boost the Iraqi consumption market.
On the seriousness of the non-compliance with the US sanctions, they said that the number of funded and pro-Iranian factions is many, pointing out that many of them have threatened to use weapons to strike US interests in Iraq in the event of Iraq’s application of those sanctions. They said that the Iraqi government may not have sufficient means to comply with US sanctions; it may ask the United States to waive it from those obligations.
What are the limits of the Iraqi position on US sanctions on Iraq? Will Iraq comply with these sanctions or its relationship with Iran will oblige it to violate these sanctions? in the midst of a storm of criticism for Abadi’s position , Iraqi officials are racing to demand that trade ties with Tehran be maintained despite US sanctions, where funded and pro-Iranian militias in Iraq have refused to abide by US sanctions. The so-called “Al-Nujaba movement” threatened to use weapons to strike US interests in Iraq, in the event of Iraq’s application of these sanctions.
The facts on the ground indicate that Iraq will violate sanctions on Iran. The reality of post-2003 Iraq-Iran relationship has made Iran appear to be the one that actually makes Iraq’s internal and external policies. The control mechanism through allies or agents has led Iraq to become a strategic depth for Iran. Tehran today does not allow that Iraq becomes the arena for any source of threat even if the commitment to US sanctions contradicts with the Iraqi national interest, and we don’t forget that the political elites in Iraq since the legislative elections that took place on 12 last May could not form the government because of the enormous pressure from Tehran to bring politicians who are loyal to it . So if pro-Iranian Iraqi politicians succeed in taking control of the new government, the rulers of Iraq will certainly make decisions that support Iranian interests.
The Iraqi government, regardless of Iranian pressure, is required to take into account the interest of the Iraqi people in dealing with this complex issue. If the US sanctions are rejected or violated, Washington may impose sanctions on Iraq, such as sanctions on Iraqi oil purchases or freezing of Iraqi assets in the USA, which will have negative and catastrophic effects on Iraq, that the file of US sanctions on Iran carries a fundamental question about the loyalty and patriotism of Iraqi officials and politicians …either Iraq or Iran.
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Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies