Chaos at the Iraqi Borders

Chaos at the Iraqi Borders

Monday, 16 July, 2018 - 05:00
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.
An unusual summer in southern Iraq, hot weather, few hours of electricity a day after Iran had cut it off, and a large state without a government, except that the Iraqi summer season is ripe for problems, and it has a history in igniting chaos, invasion and revolutions.

The cities of Najaf and Basra are more than 400 kilometers apart, yet the chaos has reached the two cities. Basra specifically is suffering more than the rest of the Iraqi cities. It seems there is an intention to escalate in the south to weaken the central government and threaten the region. Iraq as a whole, not only Basra, is struggling to get out of the impact of two turbulent phases.

Saddam’s rule was a period of wars and crises for 25 years. Then there was the invasion stage and what came after it, where the country became chaotic. Then we saw it trying to recover slowly under Haider al-Abadi’s rule.

Basra’s chaos was the result of the weak central government. The government in Baghdad is weak and cannot play its role, as there are many partners in authority; militias, authorities and parties and with the US-Iranian conflict which became obvious to everyone. There is no doubt that Iran is the biggest challenge for Iraq to be independent and successful. The regime in Tehran considers Iraq as its natural geographical, sectarian extension.  

During the past few years, it succeeded in creating entities that had weakened Baghdad with a parallel authority, like the Popular Mobilization Forces, unfair bilateral agreements, using oil revenues to finance its operations, seeking to have full control by imposing a puppet government. Tehran did not succeed completely but it managed to hinder the authority in Baghdad, until it became incapable of providing enough electricity, to get the militias - that impose control over cities - out, to provide jobs and even incapable to stop the intervention of Iran and its militias in southern Iraqi affairs.

It became more complicated since the end of the elections, as there is a crisis because of the vacuum in authority, which has doubled the suffering. The government almost became paralyzed waiting for naming a Prime Minister who would join the coalition amid a party dispute that may exacerbate the period of power vacuum, and extends the country’s crises. This is what is happening in the internal affairs.

Iraq, along with Kuwait and Iran, is the northern Gulf, a potentially permanent area of tension as a result of the three forces sharing its land and water borders, in addition to a large US military presence on land and sea, within a complex military balance in this sensitive region. 

Iran wants to do the same as it did in Lebanon and Yemen, opening several fronts to weaken its adversaries and provoke the international community. The militias in south Iraq are prepared by the Revolutionary Guards to be like “Hezbollah” in Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen; an advanced battalion fighting on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

We see signs of a crisis that would fill the Gulf region with chaos and ignite battles inside Iraq and with its neighbors. Later, we would hear Tehran saying that it is ready to mediate to stop the fighting, if its conditions are accepted in return. Due to increasing US pressure, the Iranian authorities are trying to make everyone pay and fail Trump’s administration plan to economically and politically force Iran into signing a nuclear agreement with better conditions that the previous one.

South Iraq might be the new field for the Iranian regime, after it had lost a lot in the Syrian war due to the Israeli attacks against its forces and militias, and the changing Russian stance.

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