The 1979 Islamic Revolution
The 1979 Islamic Revolution
The article talks about the Iranian attempts to impact Iraqi religious and political life through their religious proxies. For example, it specifically emphasizes the attempt of Iran to install Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi in a highly clerical position in Najaf, which would come at the cost of the current Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. If Shahroudi challenges Al-Sistani, this would show clear evidence of Iranian attempt to influence Iraq by challenging Iraqi top religious leaders.
Saudis have also reacted against installment of Shahroudi. Saudi government has stated that such action “represents clear evidence that Khamenei is determinedly planning to intervene in a broad scale in Iraq.”
This article brings us more close to the future that the Iraqis will follow now that the U.S. troops are pulling out. The article has been published in CBSNews and can be accessed here. It is especially important the meeting with Obama and Al-Maliki, Iraqi prime Minister, where they expect to discuss the U.S. – Iraqi. One other topic that the Obama administration is concerned is the Iranian influence over Iraq. The article refers specifically to Maqtada al-Sadr, who is believed to have close ties with Iranians. This is major issue to the Americans because on one hand Al-Sadr is in coalition with Al-Maliki, and on the other hand, he has been one of the biggest anti-American voices in Iraq.
Al-Maliki, however, have refused to admit any influence of Iran over Iraq and stated that Iraq will follow policies that are in best national interest.
This is another example how Iranians are trying to influence Iraqi policies by using their proxies like Maqtada al-Sadr, a Shi’a influential cleric, to increase their dominance in the region.
The article offers some interesting developments about Iran’s interest in taking a more important role in Iraq after the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The article can be accessed here.
This article shows the various initiatives from Iran in trying to capture the vacuum left with the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The author argues that Iran has played the shared Iraqi-Iran identity as their main argument to help Iraq in various issues. For example, the latest Iranian offer to train Iraqi military forces was another attempt to take a leading role in the region after the U.S. decision of withdrawal. Iraqi officials rejected such offer on the grounds that the weapons that the Iraqi military possess are American and therefore they stated that they would prefer American trainers. Such attempts to lure Iraqis to accept Iranian assistance also came from the recent Iranian foreign minister visit in Baghdad who said that that the two countries are “two branches of the same tree.” Such arguments are promoted by the Iranian government in an attempt to increase its influence over Iraq by channeling ideas through transnational identity argument that Gregory Gause used in his book The Persian Gulf.
Iran has also used proxies inside Iraq to increase their influence over Iraqi policies and the attempt to push U.S. forces out of Iraq. For example, Moqtada al-Sadr, an extremist Shia cleric has been backed by the Iranian government to target U.S. troops and contractors in Iraq. Iran backed cleric has declared to kill any U.S. troops and contractors and his loyalists have stepped up their campaign by posting billboards around Baghdad that call on U.S. troops and contractors to leave Iraq. Moreover, according to the author, Iran is preparing Ayatollah Hashem Shahroudi to take the top cleric position in Iraq, which is similar position as the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini holds in Iran.
Such strategies used by the Iranians has been seen as a major threat to the balance of power in the region by the west, United States and Israel in particular, and the current Obama administration is working in sending some troops back to Iraq next year in order to maintain Iraqi independence from Iran. Such decision is a subject of Iraqi parliament approval and has not been taken into consideration yet despite U.S. attempts to move
Rick Gladstone piece talks about the Iran’s government rejection of being involved in the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The article has been published in the NY Times and can be accessed here.
However, this article surfaces some new information that was not known before. Iran, who initially refused to take the blame for the plot, described the whole scenario as an attempt by its enemies to try to blame Iran as an excuse to bring more pressure upon them. Later this changed when the Iran government shifted blame towards an opposition exile group known as Mujahedeen Khalq. The group’s spokesman, Shahin Globadi, however, rejected Iranian claims and told NY Times that this is another strategy used by the Mullahs “where they blame their crimes on their opposition for double gains.”
The reason to blame the opposition group that is also known, as National Council of resistance of Iran is an interesting decision. For one, the Islamic Republic of Iran has viewed them as a violent organization whose aim was to overthrow the regime in Iran and at the same time the United States has enlisted them as a foreign terrorist organization. European Union has declassified them as a terrorist group and this was mainly done with the organization’s decision to renounce violence, but such decision has not been taken by the Justice Department in the United States.
Other sources have viewed the plot with suspicion due to the lack of evidence that the Justice Department has maintained, while experts for the region, such as Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, stated that this must be another form of strategy by Iran where they are “trying to meet pressure with pressure.”
George Friedman in this article discusses the development of Saudi Arabia relations towards Iran. The article is drawn from Stratfor and can be viewed here.
It is important to note that both countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran, have been playing their foreign policy in foreign lands. Both countries have almost always avoided any major one-on-one conflict and their latest disputes have also taken place in the region via transnational identities.
First, the author argues his case about Iranian interest in influencing Iraqi policies. This reality has been later enforced in the view of Saudis after the United States administration decision to withdraw military troops from Iraq and as a result Saudis have stepped up their support for Sunni Muslim in Iraq trying to keep the balance Iran who has a much bigger leverage in the country.
Second, Iran has used a similar strategy, at least according to the Saudis, the author argues, to influence Shia uprising in Bahrain. This is another battle fought in foreign land and Saudis have played tough to send a message to Iran to stay away from meddling with the Sunni minority rulers in Bahrain. This was also another test played by Iran to try destabilize a Sunni ruled country in order to gain more influence and use it for their own advantage. At the same time, this Iranian game posed a test for the Saudis who responded with a military aid to suppress the revolt in Bahrain and send a clear message to Iran to keep its hands off from Bahrain.
At the same time, the author in the article discusses the U.S. support of Saudis in regards to Iranian latest plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the plot was instigated by the Iranian intelligence and both, United States and Saudi Arabia, held Iran government responsible for the plot. This sent a new shockwave to the Iran – Saudi relationship and the relationship between the two has hit a new low.
The piece by George Friedman talks about the development of strategies in Iraq after the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq announced by Obama administration. The article has been published by Stratfor and can be found here.
There are several scenarios that can play out, but the author strongly believes that Iran will maintain its attempts to influence Iraqi policies. This will come, the author further states, through transnational identity theory that Gause argues in his book, where Iran will use Shia majority in Iraq as an extended arm to reach out to the policies that favors their dominance in the region.
In addition, the author argues that the withdrawal of U.S. troops was not entirely wanted by all Iraqis. The Sunni and Kurds in particular did not want their withdrawal, but this occurred due to the Iraqi turbulent politics that would not agree to grant the United States a permission to establish military bases in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
Furthermore, the Saudis have also kept an interest in the region and offered tacit support of Sunnis without trying to irritate the Shia majority in the country.
United States and Saudi Arabia, the author concludes, will be important factors in Iraq trying to keep ties with Iraqis and at the same time trying to avoid Iran to establish themselves as a dominant force in the region.