US should ensure Iran pays the price for its proxies’ violence
The Biden administration is repeating in Iraq the mistakes the US previously made in Syria. Washington did not check Iran’s power in Syria when reaching the nuclear deal with Tehran under the Obama administration. The result was Iran causing chaos in Syria. Last week, there was an assassination attempt against Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. The State Department condemned the attack, but it did not blame any group for carrying it out. This will lead to more dangerous Iranian behavior inside Iraq.
Iran is the country that spreads terror all over the Arab and Islamic worlds. Logically, it is the country that committed such a heinous act. The critical question is: Does the intelligence community in the US know that Iran was the perpetrator? And, if so, why has it not declared that Tehran is culpable?
The odds are high that Iran masterminded the assassination attempt. The reason is the fact that its affiliated militias in any country they try to subjugate have reached a sophisticated capability and can launch lethal attacks using armed drones. Iran, by condemning the attack, proved again that it was lying.
The irony is that President Joe Biden does not understand that the American people have common sense. As I was listening to this news, a friend of mine commented: “Here, concerning Iraq, Biden and (Donald) Trump can be contrasted. Biden will be an apologist for Iran, issuing as many excuses for Tehran as he can, saying that it was not involved in the attack. Trump, on the other hand, would have searched for the equivalent of Qassem Soleimani or Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, whoever was behind the attack, and hit them swiftly and decisively.”
The problem with the Biden administration is that it does not seem to want to understand what kind of political changes are occurring in Iraq. Basically, two important trends are developing parallel to one another. Firstly, the number of seats in the Iraqi parliament that went to the pro-Iranian militias shrank from 48 to about 19 as a result of last month’s elections. Secondly, Al-Kadhimi did not run for election. As a result, he bolstered his political standing, projecting the image of a non-partisan and national figure who can unify Iraq and establish a minimum degree of consensus among the country’s different political stripes, allowing him to find solutions to Iraq’s multiple serious problems.
This is very troubling for Iran, since its main aim is to bend the Iraqis to its political will. In addition, Tehran is emulating in Iraq the campaign of political blackmail it has been exercising in Lebanon through its crony proxy Hezbollah. If there is a political deadlock in Beirut, Hezbollah stops the government from working until its demands are met. The pro-Iran militias in Iraq can do the same, but the difference between Iraq and Lebanon is that the US has a military presence in Iraq. Any escalation of Iran’s military might in Iraq could gravitate toward an open and direct military confrontation with American troops.
The Biden administration does not seem to want to understand what kind of political changes are occurring in Iraq.
Most likely, the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq will instigate many scenes of political chaos to ensure the government of Al-Kadhimi is dysfunctional. The US should offer protection for Iraq’s critical infrastructure, including its oil exploration and refining industries. These economic assets are Iraq’s main artery in terms of national income. If they are severed, Iraq will have no money.
It would also be wise for the US to start training the Iraqi security forces to end the mob scenes that are the brainchild of the Iranian militias, as they are conducive to a state of national paralysis in the countries where Tehran stages them. The American government must also boost the efforts of the Iraqi authorities to conduct a fair investigation to conclusively determine who was responsible for the assassination attempt against Al-Kadhimi. In other words, the investigation in Iraq should not end up like the probe into the explosion at Beirut port in August 2020, which has been shamefully and disgracefully repeatedly halted.
As Hussain Abdul-Hussain wrote in National Interest, the Biden administration must form an anti-Iran coalition inside Iraq. He also counted the geography and population of Iraq as factors that could thwart Iran’s terrorism and ambitions inside the country.
Another dilemma for the US in dealing with the countries where Iran tries to dominate is its belief that such an Iranian hegemonic status can be tolerated. That is to say that the countries coerced by extensive Iranian meddling in their internal affairs can cope with these intrusions. However, appeasement of Iran simply translates into more terrorism by Iran.
A fair question the Biden administration can raise with the Iranian delegates on the scheduled resumption of the Vienna nuclear negotiations this month is do they really acknowledge the sovereignty of nations such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon? Iran has never fulfilled any international or regional obligation imposed on it by a treaty, convention or international or regional organization. The idea that Iran always propagates is that violence in countries where it interferes politically is only an impulse or is exclusively accidental and not planned. The opposite is true. Violence is very much an organized political enterprise by the Iranians in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The Biden administration should not hesitate to tell Iran that it was the one that tried to kill the prime minister of Iraq and it will pay a high price for such crimes.
- Maria Maalouf is a Lebanese journalist, broadcaster, publisher, and writer. She holds an MA in Political Sociology from the University of Lyon. Twitter: @bilarakib