After a short euphoric momentum of standing tall as a re-expanding regional key player, Iraq is once again falling into a new cycle of security chaos that smells like a civil war. The escalating armed confrontations between state-affiliated security forces and Iran-backed armed militia, and the failed attempt to assassinate the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, last week, are awfully shaking the country’s hard-won cohesion and stability. Moreover, the security turmoil raises important questions about Iran’s persistent interventions to keep Iraq in a fluid state between utterly damaging chaos and burgeoning stability.
On August 28th, Iraq was so secure and stable that it was able to host a successful conference for regional and international leaders, under the title “Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership.” It was heartwarming to see Iraq regaining its leading role in the Middle East region by acting as a hub for cooperation between Arabs, Turks, and Persians. That is after eighteen years wherein Iraq’s wealthy and fertile land was abused as a ground for conflicts between these particular regional powers.
The Baghdad summit came at a very critical time for the Middle East region, which went through a state of panic, in the aftermath of the hastily and chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The conference did not only push the regional leaders to put their differences aside and focus on addressing the potential security risks resulting from Taliban’s political rise in Afghanistan, but also confirmed Iraq’s importance as a front wall in the face of expected security threats thanks to its geographic location at the eastern gates of the region.
Over September and October, Iraq was pre-occupied with preparing for and mobilizing voters for the sixth Parliamentary elections, since 2003. Meanwhile, the state security forces and intelligence bureau continued their successful missions to trace and arrest ISIS terrorists. On October 11th, Iraqi Prime Minister announced the arrest of Sami Jassem Al-Jubouri, the former assistant of ISIS leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. These were positive indications that Iraq is ready to enter the new era as a strong state, after the completion of parliamentary elections in October. The electoral process went smooth, albeit with a relatively low voter turnout of 43%.
However, since announcing election results on October 21st, the country has gone into a state of chaos that has been rapidly escalating into armed confrontations. Protests erupted around Baghdad in disapproval to the results of the elections. The Iran-backed militia, which is widely spread all over Iraq, are the main organizers of the protests. Some observers justified that by them being angry because their politicians lost a few of their formerly held seats to Muqtada Al-Sadr’s “Sadrist List,” which won the majority of the parliament. But that is not a reason good enough for protesting, simply because despite losing a few seats, the Iran-backed politicians still have the upper hand in naming the future Prime Minister, according to the Iraqi political systems which favors certain political blocs and coalitions.
Apparently, the protests organized by the Iran-backed militia had another purpose, which is instigating chaos that prevents Iraq from pursuing with building a strong state, that is not dependent on Iran. Hence, the protests which started as peaceful rallies against election results have quickly turned into violent clashes between protesters and security forces, leaving more than one hundred people injured and killed from both sides. After about two weeks of violent riot, the state managed to control the situation as the Prime Minister, Al-Kadhimi, promised to hold those who committed violence, either protesters or security personnel, accountable and confirmed state’s respect to people’s right to protest.
Yet, in an unexpected escalation on November 7th, the Prime Minister’s house, which is located at the high-security Greene Zone in Baghdad, was targeted with a drone attack. Luckily, Al-Kadhimi survived the attack, but six of his guards were injured and parts of his house got damaged by the explosives loaded on the drones. Ironically, this is the first assassination attempt in history to happen using a loaded drone, but this is a topic for another article. What matters for us, here, is that this drone assassination attempt offers evidence on the hidden hands behind the recent security chaos in Iraq. The dirty hands that plotted the violent protests and the Prime Minister’s assassination attempt, are the same dirty hands that assassinated more than thirty Iraqi political activists, in the past year. It is the Mullah regime in Iran.
The only two actors, perhaps in the entire world, who hate to see Iraq prosper again as a strong coherent state, are the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The common aspect between the non-state actor, ISIS, and the state of Iran, in this particular case, is that Iraq’s political instability and lack of security is the only guarantee for their survival and even flourishing. By abusing the wealth under the hands of a weakened Iraqi state, Iran managed, for years, to survive unbearable economic pressures by the United States. In that sense, Iraq’s re-emergence as a strong state with an important regional role to play means the fall of the last lifeline that the Mullah regime in Iran is hanging to. Ironically, the complete collapse of the Iraqi state is also harming to Iran. Therefore, all Iran’s interventions in Iraq are focused on achieving the goal to keep the Iraqi state existent but too weak to independently operate.
For Iraq to escape this tragic fallback into chaos, and pursue its endeavors to recover from two decades of bloody conflicts that mostly have nothing to do with Iraq itself, the Iraqi state has to first identify the internal and external parties that benefit from preserving Iraq’s misery and hold them accountable. Meanwhile, it is time for influential countries in the Middle East region to give a helping hand to the Iraqi state in its mission to clean its home from the dangerous elements that had been gnawing its walls for years. Ensuring Iraq’s stability has become even more crucial for preserving Middle East security, especially after the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and the re-rise of Taliban.
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