Washington’s tough statements on Iran and its implications for Iraq

Washington’s tough statements on Iran and its implications for Iraq

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Despite messages from some officials in Washington  in which they want to renew the dialogue with Tehran, the US State Department has warned the Iranian regime against harming US interests in Iraq, blaming it for any attacks on US installations. State Department spokesperson Heather Neuert said “We have seen – as the minister said last week – Katyusha attacks on our facilities in Basra, and an incident happened to our embassy in Baghdad and Kurdish installations were bombed in the north.”
She added “Iran is destabilizing the region and continues to attack governments and individuals through its loyal militias … We will hold them accountable for the loss of the lives of any American … I want to be quite clear.” On the other hand, US special envoy on Iran Brian Hook said: “Washington will tighten its sanctions on Iran, to prevent it from getting the revenue it needs to finance terrorism”, describing it as “the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.” The envoy Brian Hook in an interview with “Sky News Arabia said ,” that the sanctions regime , which Washington re-imposed on Iran months ago and extends in November to include the oil and banking sectors, “encourages the stability of the region.”
He pointed out “What we have developed is a sanctions regime designed to prevent Iran from the revenues it needs to finance terrorism in the Arabian Gulf and other parts of the Middle East. We are determined to strengthen the sanctions regime so that we can promote peace and stability in the region, “Hook added.” Our sanctions will begin in November and will be the strongest sanctions we impose on the energy and banking sectors .Our goal is to bring Iran’s oil revenues to near zero. “The US envoy warned against investing in Iran, describing its economy as” the famous black money launderer. “” The Revolutionary Guard controls half of Iran’s economy, “he said. This is a problem for those who want to invest in Iran. When you invest there, you do not know whether you support trade or terrorism. “Hook said in his interview with Sky News Arabia that” the big mistake of the previous US administration is that it has only agreed with Iran on the nuclear program, “adding: But we know that it represents a danger and a threat to many countries in the Middle East.”
For her part, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley ignored the UN Security Council session devoted to discussing the question of Palestine, and only gave her views attacking Iran and its role in the Middle East. This came at the periodic Security Council session, which was held on Thursday evening, to discuss the situation in the Middle East, focusing on the Palestinian issue. Accusing Iran of “trampling on” the sovereignty of its neighbors in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, as well as “ignoring” Iraq’s sovereignty. She held Tehran “full responsibility” for the recent attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad and the US consulate in Basra, asserting that Washington “will not hesitate to strongly defend the lives of Americans. She noted ” “For almost 40 years, the Iranian regime has been outside the community of law-abiding nations. It’s hard to talk about a Middle East conflict that does not bear the hallmarks of Iran. “She said the Iranian regime “supports dictators who poison their people with gas” in reference to Tehran’s support for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, adding that it “finances foreign fighters and terrorists and transfer rockets to the militants. She stressed “”Across the Middle East, Iran has trampled on the sovereignty of its neighbors in Lebanon, in Syria and in Yemen. The Iranian regime has shown total disregard for the sovereignty of a country at a critical stage of its political development: Iraq.
Haley noted that Iranian leaders “pretend that their interference in the sovereignty of other countries takes place in the name of religious affiliation. They want to claim that they are “invited” to the affairs of other countries. However, the fact is that “the mullahs are much less motivated.” In the case of Iraq, they aim to exploit the ambiguity to create an Iranian-controlled corridor to transport arms and fighters from Tehran to the Mediterranean. “In recent months, the Iranian aggression has escalated.” Iran’s agents in Iraq worked openly, with funding, training and weapons provided by Tehran, pointing to reports that the Iranian regime had begun to transfer ballistic missiles to those in Iraq in the past few months. “As well as” develop the ability of its militias to produce rockets inside Iraq. ”
Nikki Haley added “In blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty, the Iranian regime recently launched a barrage of rockets from Iran into Iraq. Iran attacked the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Iraq, killing 11 people ».”This Iranian intervention in the sovereignty of Iraq must be of great importance to the Security Council for many reasons, not least because it is in clear defiance of Council resolutions.”
And she revealed that the commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani «is leading an effort to influence the formation of the new Iraqi government», a note that he is prohibited to travel outside Iran in a Security Council resolution in 2007. Also when the Security Council issued resolution 2231 in 2015, “Despite the clear travel ban, Soleimani has been living in Iraq since the elections in May,” she said. She stressed ” Soleimani is there, not to help to establish a government in Baghdad that will respond to the Iraqi people. He is there to build an Iraqi government under the control of the Iranian regime. ”
Haley added “Iran treats Iraq as a non-independent state,”.”It considers Iraq to be just a transit point for Iranian weapons and a training zone for Iranian proxies.” She sees that “Iran seeks to keep Iraq economically weak and dependent on its exports noting that Iraq has a lot of its own resources. Why? Because Iran wants to use a weak Iraq to finance its terrorist activities illegally. She pointed out that there is an Iranian escalation that will produce special consequences to Americans indicating ” “Two weeks ago, two Iranian groups launched a missile attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad and the US consulate in Basra,” she said. “The use of the forces in Iraq does not give the Iranian regime the right to reasonable denial when such attacks occur,” stressing that “the administration (of US President) Donald Trump does not, and will not buy it.” The Iranian regime has “taken full responsibility for the attacks of its agents on US facilities and personnel in Iraq. We will not hesitate to defend Americans’ lives with force. “She stressed that the United States «committed to work with Iraq to help it to establish an independent and comprehensive government ». While Iran promotes instability in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and the Middle East.
These relentless statements by Washington against Tehran suggest that the Middle East will be at stake in the coming months as sanctions come into effect. The US administration has repeatedly stressed that “regime change” and “military measures” against Iran are not on its agenda, but rather that the goal is to change behavior, not regime. However, there is no doubt that the Iranian regime is under threat. Both US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion that “prosperity, security, and the freedom of the Iranian people are acceptable losses in the march for the revolution.”, and Trump’s personal tweets show a desire to completely dismantle the Iranian state. Trump recently pointed out that the regime could collapse because of US sanctions policy. While these statements were in response to provocative comments by the Iranian regime, the threats to the Iranian government seem real. The large August protests only served to increase the sense that regime change was on the table. At the regional level, the American speech has called for many questions about how far the United States will go to change Iran.
The question that arises in the context of the accelerated statements of the new US administration against Iran, which takes an escalating tone, the question about the extent of this tension and its implications for the fragile stability in Iraq?
The US-Iranian conflict may threaten the rare stability witnessed by most of Iraq’s cities, that Washington and Tehran are seeking to push for the formation of a new Iraqi government after the elections in May 2018, taking sides with one party at the expense of another . The capital Baghdad has not been as stable as it is today. Superb restaurants and new shopping centers are on the rise, and many cranes are lifting cement blocks that have spread after the fall of the former regime in 2003. Many of Iraq’s rich people , according to Economist magazine, started to invest their money inside the country instead of investing it abroad. The large paintings bearing the portraits of frown clerics are replaced by billboards with pictures of smiling girls, at a time when dozens of young people gathered in a public park for a rock concert on the banks of the Tigris River. Scenes were not possible a short time ago. This relative security improvement came after years of fighting state organization and expelling it from Iraqi cities, but it seems to be threatened by competition between America and Iran and their proxies in Iraq.
Inside the Green Zone, the US envoy to Iraq, Brig. McCormack, and Qasim Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, are rallying their allies from the Iraqi political class. Both Sulaimani and McCormack seek to form a government for his interest, Iran wants to form a Shiite parliamentary bloc with more than 200 members, with 329 members of the Iraqi parliament, while McGowork seeks to form an Iraqi coalition that includes Kurds and Sunnis led by Shi’ite nationalist streams that are not loyal to Iran.

Although the Iranians and the Americans fought side by side against the terrorist ISIS , a number of shells have fallen near the US Embassy in Baghdad on September 6, and it is believed that armed factions backed by Iran behind them, against the backdrop of the popular demonstrations that started in Basra , and the burning of Iranian consulate by protesters in the city. Iran also targeted the headquarters of an Iranian Kurdish party in Quesengj district of Erbil, the first attack of Tehran aimed at Iraqi territory since the cessation of war between the two countries, in 1988.

More seriously, Iran has shown its power in Basra, a neglected city close to the border with Tehran, which lives on the water coming from there. Iran has cut off water and supplied electricity to it, prompting local residents to come out with protests that led to close oilfields noting that Basra provides about 90% of Iraqi government revenues.
Iraq’s politicians must be careful , as with every election , a major crisis is shown that to hit the country “In 2014, after the elections and the political closure, the organization of ISIS was appeared and ignited a war that lasted more than three years.” But in the previous crises, Shiite clerics in Iraq, Najaf in particular Such as Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, mediate, but the authority of clerics seems to be diminishing, opening the door to a return to the war of assassinations and even to the Shiite war, breaking the glass of relative calm in which Baghdad and many other cities enjoy with today.
The relationship between the United States and Iraq is unbalanced and needs to be re-evaluated .Baghdad wants Washington to show flexibility on issues such as confronting Shi’ite militias, applying sanctions against Iran, and choosing the next prime minister, while US officials want to tackle the country’s problems more quickly after several years of deep involvement in Iraq. Iran, for its part, wants to keep Iraq weak and dependent on it. To reduce Tehran’s negative influence and help the Iraqi government to strengthen its strength and transparency, Washington must be patient and work closely with Baghdad officials. Similarly, US sanctions against Iran must be designed to take Iraq’s interests into account .Washington should also provide more assistance in terms of financial intelligence, anti-corruption efforts, training and protection programs for judges, as well as support in the field of counter-intelligence and counterterrorism to counter a terrorist organization of ISIS. Both, the competitors now ask Iraqis to decide their choice “either with us or against us “Today, Iraq is living entirely between the rapacity of Tehran and the arrogance of Washington.

Iraqi Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies