The clamor over Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s leanings has been going on since his first premiership. He had differences with political forces such as his rival Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya List and some Sadrists.
The circle of his disagreement with others has now widened to include even his allies such as Kurds who enabled him to become the prime minister in the first instance. He has moved closer to the conservative Iranian camp in Tehran after the departure of Americans, who found him acceptable.
It was quite natural that the relations between Baghdad and Tehran became normal after Saddam’s fall. But what is all the more confusing is the alliance becoming so strong that it has the potential to change the region’s political map. What I mean is its impact on Iraq’s regional and international alliances. We cannot rely on the statements emerging from Tehran on making an alliance with Iraq such as the one made recently by Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, calling for forging a full union between Iran and Iraq. However, it is not the words but the action taken to support the words that matters.
A pertinent question in the context is why al-Maliki should choose to have an alliance with Tehran. It is a little puzzling because Iran, which is besieged internationally, has nothing to offer in return to Iraq. On the contrary, Iran will transfer to Iraq its problems such as the sectarian and regional clashes and disputes with the West, apart from the risk of global sanctions if Iraq makes any economic collaboration with Tehran. The situation will return Iraq to square one reminiscent of Iraq’s woes during the Saddam regime.
In my view, al-Maliki’s drift toward Iran springs from his desire to win the next parliamentary elections. His every move points to that direction. He wants to amend the Iraq’s constitution so that he will not have to face any legal hurdle to be prime minister for the third time. He attempts to undermine the authority of the independent High Electoral Commission and to control all decision-making centers and key ministries under him. That is why he wants the ministries of defense, security, intelligence, finance, oil and the central bank. He has taken away powers of all who stood against him including Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Premier Saleh Al-Mutleq. He traveled to Washington to reassure the Americans that there is nothing to worry.
However, now he is enjoying Tehran’s hospitality. For him Tehran is the key to power. It is Iran that granted him the prime minister’s post when his party lost elections with a mere 89 seats while Allawi’s coalition was far ahead. Even Shiite parties refused then to support al-Maliki’s alliance.
He flew to Tehran to seek help from the Iranian leaders. Iran interfered and mounted pressure on its allies who had 128 seats to enable Al-Maliki to become the prime minister against the popular leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
If al-Maliki aims to win the next elections and get the prime minister’s post for the third time, he would have to offer a lot of concessions to Iran. Those concessions will serve Iran’s interests in the region, which will, in turn, land him and his country in deep trouble. Iran will project him as an opponent of the world powers more influential than his dismissed colleagues in the government.
This explains why al-Maliki’s jumping into the regional fray in issues related to Syria and then Iran. His voluntary involvement in such issues will knock down Iraqis’ dream to keep out of foreign adventures. Another Iraqi dream is to make devoted efforts to reconstruct the country. They know that Saddam’s foreign adventures destroyed them. They also know that Iraq is the richest Arab country in terms of resources. But its people remain extremely poor. Al-Maliki’s struggle to keep his post is pushing his country to a bleak future. It will also reshape the country, whether he wishes it or not, to suit Iran’s interests and not Iraq’s.
By Abdul Rahman al-Rashed