Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Iran had virtually no influence over Iraq and very little direct influence on other gulf countries in the region.
Since the dismantling of the Iraq, Iran has assumed an overwhelming influence over every aspect of the Iraqi state and the daily lives of the Iraqi people. And the absence of Iraq as a regional and stabilizing influence has left the Gulf countries under the mercy of Iran’s aggressive ambitions.
Southern Iraq has been effectively annexed by Tehran under the watchful eyes of the United States, with Iranian militias roaming the streets of Iraq, wholly unaccountable to Iraqi authorities.
Realizing the extent of Iran’s post-invasion machinations and its intent to dominate Iraq, the United States and Europe embarked on policies aimed at isolating Iran, through economic, political, and trade sanctions, including freezing Iran’s assets.
In response, Iran has been seeking ways to circumvent these sanctions or lessen their impact on the Iranian people.
Iran has been seeking scientific, military, and technical help from a politically re-invigorated Russia, particularly in regard to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, an issue that remains a bone of contention with the West. Moreover, Iran continues to expand its trade relationship with China.
Regionally, Iran has been use threats and incentives in order get around the sanctions. In Bahrain for example, Iran gave its full support to the uprising. In the United Arab Emirates, Iran has not encouraged or supported any form of uprising. Neither did it activate its political or intelligence cells to destabilize the country.
In doing so, Iran has clearly signaled its double standard and encouraged the U.A.E. to continue to refrain from enforcing the U.N. sanctions.
Iran continues to trade freely in the U.A.E. through its various local outlets, particularly Dubai, where goods are imported and sent to Iran directly. The can also be said of other gulf states.
However, Iraq remains the single most potent instrument for Iran’s mission around sanctions. Iraq’s domestic and foreign policies are totally subservient to those of Tehran.
Many people in the international community do not realize that most government personnel in the present Iraqi government are Iranian nationals. These officials include ministers, members of parliament, senior officials, and high-ranking military personnel.
The officials use the legislation imposed on Iraq by Ambassador Paul Bremer, the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority. According to this legislation, any Iranian can freely obtain Iraqi citizenship.
This means Iranian-born nationals are ruling Iraq today. This has allowed Iran to develop a Persian-axis between Tehran-Baghdad, Damascus, and Hezbollah as a means of breaking its political isolation.
Under the influence of Iran, the Iraqi government offers full support to the Baathist party of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, while remaining committed to the policy of marginalizing the Baathist Party in Iraq (a policy that has left over 2 million Iraqi families destitute). It is common to hear Iraqi officials regularly utter anti-Arab sentiments.
Freezing the assets of the Iranian banks has left Iran short of hard currency. Therefore, Iraq’s markets continue to be flooded with imported goods and services destined for Iran, and with no border between the two countries, trade sanction violations cannot be monitored.
Perhaps the most outrageous method of breaking the currency sanctions is the one used by the Iranian militias whereby oil is siphoned from Iraqi pipelines and sold on the black market for Iran’s benefit. Saturating Iraqi markets with Iranian goods at inflated prices, pads revenues for Tehran.
Another common practice is using alleged envoys to launder counterfeit US dollars for real ones.
The United States cannot enforce the sanctions against Iran because it faces an Iraqi government that is loyal only to Tehran. Furthermore, the Iraqi government refuses to enforce sanctions against Iran.
Political analysts often suggest that U.S. media hostilities against Iran are for helping Obama get re-elected.
If the Obama administration is sincere about enforcing sanctions against Iran, it will certainly need to rid Iraq of the monster crossing its border. It will also need to restore authority to an independent sovereign Iraq. The United States also needs to reconsider its foreign policy of supporting divisions and promoting policies of sectarian blood borders.
Iraq needs a powerful central government of national unity, which cares about the interests of the Iraqi people and territorial integrity of Iraq.
The U.S. invasion replaced a secular Iraq with a sectarian one, and this has produced the present pro-Iranian regime.
The United States should extract Iraq from the political jaws of Iran, and the country needs to be given back to the Iraqis. Historically, an independent sovereign Iraq has always been a friend and not a foe of the West.
It appears that the United States has delivered Iraq on a silver platter for Iran to plunder, in order for the United States to gain precious natural resources.
But it is not too late to right these wrongs.
Dr. Burhan M. al-Chalabi (FRSA) is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
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