Iran has been closely following protests in Iraq since its outbreak last October, seeing it as a “conspiracy aimed at undermining relations between the two neighboring countries.” In the midst of these protests, slogans against Iranian influence have been raised in Iraq, burned pictures of Iranian leader Ali Khamenei in Nasiriyah, then pictures of the leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ruhollah Khomeini have shot down in Karbala, and events in Najaf, Dhi Qar and Basra were organized to burn the Iranian flag and different pictures of Iranian leaders and symbols , the siege of the Iranian consulate in Karbala and lower the Iranian flag and raise the Iraqi flag , with a hanging a banner , “closed by the people”, and attack the leaders of parties and militias and described them through pictures and banners as “Iranian agents” and “servants of foreigners .”
Anxiety is at the forefront of the Iranian position on the Iraqi protests, which seek to maintain its influence in Iraq, which the demonstrators seek to change. The protests are a real threat against Iranian interests in Iraq, because the demonstrations are national at its core, and therefore a challenge to the Iranian-backed political power.
Observers of Iraqi affairs say that Iran will lose a lot if its allies are toppled from power, and noted protests included the areas and strongholds of some Iranian-backed organizations, such as southern Iraq. But what are the reasons for the southerners to rise up against Iran? Some observers point out that southerners consider Iran to be the cause of disappointment, hunger, oppression and lack of everything, and control of Iraq’s resources through parties loyal to them, and by sponsoring militias and expanding their spheres of influence at the level of street, government, society and security.
Over the past three years, southern Iraq has seen what could be seen as signs of a near rejection of all forms of Iranian influence in Iraq after several factors pushed it, including Iran opening salty drainage water on the Shatt al-Arab, and before that , cutting off and diverting its tributaries, and then burning Iranian waste near borders and tragedies in nearby Iraqi cities in the province of Maysan, and then the government agreed to the participation of Iranian security agents in the organization of the religious ceremonies of Karbala and Najaf and to get sharp arguments and differences between them and Iraqis, leading to the accusation of Tehran to flood the south with cheap drugs. The biggest congestion may have been with an Iraqi woman from Najaf being beaten by an Iranian security officer at Mashhad airport, an incident the Iranian authorities apologized for, before a similar abuse on a Basra family who was also on treatment in Iran. On the other hand, Basra witnessed the burning of the consulate and then lowered the Iranian flag and burned it and sabotage the banner of Imam Khomeini, which was written on the street in central Basra, and then refused to establish a shrine to place of Khomeini ablution in 1979 before leaving Iraq, which succeeded because of popular pressure, and even the government of Najaf agreed to change the name of Najaf Street , it has been renamed it after it removed the banner of Imam Khomeini’s street , and the consulate in Karbala was besieged and the flags and photos of Iranian leaders were burned.
This remarkable development in the relationship between Iraqis and Iran is what did not expect by leaders in Tehran, followers of the Iraqi affairs see that Iran is currently suffering from the impact of a great shock, as it did not expect that the new generation of Iraq, which cost billions of dollars to raise by its standards, will come up with an uprising against it and against its parties, because it conceived because of the messages of Iraqi parties to it that the Iraqis love Khamenei and want to become Baghdad-like Tehran and under the rule of the velayat-e faqih, through the support of armed militias, and turn Iraq into an Iranian garden, and this made it to put huge financial possibilities and many future aspirations in Iraq , but all these ideas ended with the birth of a new Iraqi generation that believed in Iraq and was fully aware of how much Iran had exploited their country’s weakness and absorbed its good deeds.
They pointed out that the Iraqis reject any form of guardianship, how if the guardianship imposed on them with weapons, murder and assassination, Iranian guardianship?, adding that it became clear to the Iranian people and government, the Iraqi refusal to the extension outside their country, they were shocked by the burning images of Khomeini, Khamenei and Suleimani and witnessed the Iraqi anger and its danger on them inside their country.
“Iran is trying to keep a distance between it and rising tensions in both countries, but its ability to do so is limited. Its domestic allies and armed groups are being targeted by the demonstrators,” observers say. Iran’s intervention has fueled the anger of protesters, especially in Iraq, where “Iraqis hate the fact that Iran can interfere in their affairs.”
While Iraqi observers believe that the current protests are not only against Iranian influence in Iraq, but also from US tutelage and all foreign interventions, and that anger was raised more and more after the Israeli strikes on sites targeting soldiers and camps belonging to the Popular Mobilization factions, which confirmed that Iraq has become a arena for settling International and regional conflicts and a starting point for the operations of the war that the country has nothing to do with it. They pointed out that “Iraqi politicians made a mistake with their people when they put Iraq and its resources for the benefit of foreigners and Iranians, and therefore the current rejection is normal and expected by the people who fought the oppressive regimes and does not accept humiliation and hunger,” warning that “not to correct the Iraqi policy and attention to the interests of Iraqis in the first place, means anger will lead to a revolution that will be harsher for all the countries of the region. ”
Iran was the main beneficiary of the US occupation of Iraq in 2003, but it was not sufficient to rule Iraq through (Iraqis loyal to it), and pushed the Quds Force commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (Qasem Soleimani) to establish a copy of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Iraq instead of the (Iraqi army), and so did through the militias (the Popular Mobilization), which has devoured the state budget, in addition to the financial corruption that prevailed in the parties loyal to Iran and the ruling political class in Iraq, in addition to suspicious business deals with the Iranian regime .. And all this led to exacerbate poverty and hunger among the general public of Iraq (Shiites and Sunnis), and began to rebel to the dire conditions of mass protests and mass demonstrations.
That is why it is funny that the imam of the Tehran mosque says: “Kill American agents, Iraqi demonstrators!”… In fact, it is America that has given Iraq to Iran since 2003… Iranian influence inside Iraq is still growing through parties loyal to it, and Iraqi political personalities loyal to it and armed militias shot fire on unarmed protesters, and snipers target street protesters.
It is true that there were protesters who burned the Iranian flag, but it was Washington’s policy in Iraq that enabled and extended Iranian influence inside Iraq, especially during the era of US President Barack Obama. What happened in Iraq of wide popular protests is a result of Obama’s arrogant policy in Iraq and the entire Arab region.
Iraqi Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies