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US Terror Designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Leaves Iraq with No Room to Maneuver

US Terror Designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Leaves Iraq with No Room to Maneuver

Wednesday, 10 April, 2019 - 09:30
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. (Reuters)
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa
No sooner had the United States announced its terrorist designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on Monday that Tehran retaliated by blacklisting the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) in the Middle-East and all its affiliates.

Iraq took no such swift measures. It instead opted to wait and see the repercussions of Washington’s move given its complex ties with both the US and its neighbor.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim said that Baghdad will “study” the development, adding that it rejects “unilateral sanctions.”

His remarks were interpreted as a sign that Iraq wanted to keep an equal distance from Washington and Tehran in their escalating conflict, most notably when it comes to US waivers on sanctions it imposed against Iran last year over its contentious nuclear program and malign foreign policies.

On the unofficial level, Iraq’s allies, especially armed factions, did not comment on the US designation.

Strategic expert Dr. Hisham al-Hashemi told Asharq Al-Awsat that Washington’s move against Tehran was non-binding against Iraq, which has kept a neutral stance on the issue. Baghdad will, however, face economic and diplomatic complications in the future.

He acknowledged that the US move has put Iraq in a difficult position as it may face military retaliation by pro-Iran factions against American interests on its territories.

Iraqi politician Haidar al-Malla told Asharq Al-Awsat that from a legal perspective, Iraq is part of the international coalition to combat terrorism, “so when the IRGC is designated as terrorist, it has a responsibility towards this alliance.”

On whether Baghdad will respect the designation, he said that it must given that it is a member of the coalition.

Moreover, he added that the US “no longer needs Iraq’s permission to carry out any coalition operation,” meaning it will deal with the IRGC in the same way it deals with terrorist threats.

“The American decision has effectively ended the lenient policy that Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi had adopted in standing at an equal distance from both Iran and the US,” he continued.

“It has ended the possibilities of striking a balanced policy” and confronted the government with either committing to the international coalition or quitting the alliance and siding with Iran, Malla stated.

The terrorist designation has left Iraq with no room to maneuver between Washington and Tehran, he stressed.

Political science professor at the Nahrain University Dr. Amer Hassan Fayyad said the designation will not be played out in either Iran or the US, but in countries were Tehran boasts proxies, such as Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

“Ultimately, these four countries will incur the greatest harm from the American move,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

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