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Iran’s Approach to Iraq Rooted in Regional Strategic Issues

Friday, May 23, 2014

Seyyed Mohammad Sadeq Kharrazi
Former Iranian Ambassador to France and the United Nations

Iran’s policy in the Middle East is based on the fundamental strategy of supporting [anti-Israel] resistance and the core of that strategy has been to keep the process of resistance going. As a result, any time that resistance has needed support and reinvigoration, Iran has spared no effort to support it, and any time the resistance has been waning in power, Iran has played its crucial part in strengthening it. This strategy has been the official policy of Iran and the Islamic Republic has suffered a hefty cost to earn the superior position that it currently has in the Middle East region. Regardless of ordinary political demarcations, the resistance movement extends from the Mediterranean region and the shores of the Mediterranean Sea all the way east to beyond the frontiers of Afghanistan and even includes the land of Kipchak people [in Cumania] and what lies beyond its borders. The main reason behind this vast presence is the special type of attitude and the strategy that the Islamic Republic has adopted to protect the line of resistance in the world of Islam.

Iraq also falls within the framework of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s strategy. The security of Iraq as well as its progress and development, support for the incumbent government, the process of democratization, support for the rule of law, peaceful coexistence of all ethnic minorities and nomadic people, and the existing solidarity among various Iraqi peoples have all led to the existence of a special type of civil structure, which these days is quite manifest as a phenomenon in the history of Iraq. It also indicates high intellectual power of the Iraqi people and is in line with the policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has been a regular supporter of the civil process in this Arab country. Naturally, every political group and party, which is able to win the majority vote of the people through this democratic process, will have to work with Iran because Iran enjoys a special geopolitical and geostrategic position in the region. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that Iran is concerned about the rise or fall of any specific government in Iraq because any wise government taking charge in Iraq will need the support and help of its powerful eastern neighbor if it wants to boost the country’s regional influence. Therefore, any government ruling in Iraq should have a plan on how to interact with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

During the past century, any instance of shift in power in Iraq has been usually characterized by bloodshed, terror, and coup d’états. However, different realities have been revealed in Iraq through developments that have taken place in the past years – at least during the past decade – as a result of which, the shift of power has been only possible through people’s presence in various elections in order to determine their country’s political fate. This issue, therefore, has emerged as the most important political phenomenon in the new Iraq. This is the same political and democratic process, which our country has been powerfully supporting in Iraq. The Islamic Republic of Iran will lend its firm support to any people who want to play a role in determining their country’s fate anywhere across the Islamic world.

One of the most important questions, which can be posed here, is why Iran has adopted a different policy in Syria? It will logically occur to many people that when it comes to Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has always showed respect for people’s votes and adapted its policy toward those countries with the result of people’s votes. It should be noted that according to our understanding – and even based on the remarks made by the former secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and the special envoy of the UN and the Arab League to Syria, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi – [the incumbent Syrian President] Bashar Assad is currently representing the majority of the Syrian people. At present time, a 12-percent Alawite minority in addition to Kurds, Christians and about 30 percent of the Syrian Sunnis support Bashar Assad. Iran’s policy in Syria was from the outset, the opposite of the policy adopted by the world hegemonic system, which aimed to weaken the resistance in Syria. The hegemonic system was planning to turn Syria into a venue for terrorist and radical groups. The main factors that guided the radical groups toward the edges of the Mediterranean Sea included the overt support provided to radical groups fighting in Syria by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey, in addition to genocidal policy followed by those groups, which was carried out in parallel to plundering and terrorism. These crimes were committed by all militia units that enjoyed the full support of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service in addition to unbridled support of many other Arab states.

One of the surprising points in this regard was failure of security wisdom of European countries, which remained largely indifferent to these developments, or even gave their tacit support to this process by remaining silent toward it. The presence of Al-Qaeda terrorism and other radical Arab groups in the Mediterranean region and close to mainland Europe should be, in fact, considered a collective threat to future Europe. Today in Syria, we are witnessing the repetition of the same strategic mistake that the United States made during the military occupation of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union when Washington decided to take sides with radical militia groups. Many years after that support, the United States itself became a victim to the same terrorist groups that it had created during the Cold War era. Today and in the case of Syria, the Islamic Republic of Iran believes that supporting the process of democratic developments in Syria based on people’s votes is the first and foremost priority of the Syrian society.

Neither foreign political and military intervention will be able to help establishment of democracy in Syria, nor the financial, monetary, and military support provided by Saudis [to militants in Syria]. The measures taken by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates in the Arab country will not be also able to help to promote this process. Anywhere there has been a sign of Islamic Awakening or the Arab Spring, all the regional powers, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey and some other smaller powers, have tried to nip it in the bud through their vast financial capacities. Unlike those countries, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been taking sides with the people all through those developments and has steadfastly thrown its weight behind those developments, which have been clearly civil.

Almost all analysts believe that the ongoing developments in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Afghanistan are in line with the establishment of collective security in the region because the two components of power and security are currently intertwined in the region and none of them can exist without the other. When the power and authority arises from the votes of people, it would naturally help governments to show a different kind of authority. We believe that the real power should be based on people’s votes. Dictatorial and monarchial political systems will never be able to have a correct understanding of the nature of people’s power. Therefore, such type of governments, as we have already seen in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, usually prefer to suppress their people. The Islamic Republic of Iran has not based its foreign policy approach on defending a specific person. Across the region, from Afghanistan to Iraq, both of which are neighbors of Iran, the process of democratic developments has had the support of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

During the elections in Iraq, Arab nationalism openly failed to win people’s votes while secularism was also rejected by the Iraqi public. On the other  hand, mottos based on law and logic managed to bring more than 60 percent of eligible voters to ballot boxes in recent general elections in Iraq. New developments that took place through the Iraqi elections were quite surprising. At the same time, it should be noted that differences within the Shia community in this Arab country are quite natural and are telling signs of plurality of thoughts and ideas.

I am of the opinion that the Shia community in Iraq has made a series of mistakes in its political calculations and this issue has cast some doubt on the unity of Shias and the strength of coalitions among Shia groups during the past few years. It is noteworthy that such mistakes cannot be considered to be limited to a few groups or certain political parties or nomadic tribes in that country. The same mistakes can be clearly seen in the attitude and orientation of the Iraqi government as well. Despite all these odds, having authority is the first priority for the incumbent government of Iraq. If that authority did not exist, Iraq would not have experienced security at present time. During the past years, Iraq has been witness to many political and security catastrophes and crises and has paid a high price to reach the existing level of relative stability which it is experiencing right now. The current stability in Iraq is a sign of the government’s power and authority. In view of the general culture that governs Iraq, in particular, and the entire region, in general, this country needs centralized and serious management in order to achieve the goals of sustainable development, democratization of the country, and economic progress.

It is my personal understanding that despite some theories whose proponents believe that Iran’s standing in the region is not favorable, the Islamic Republic has the upper hand and its superior position in the region is the main reason why Saudi Arabia and certain other regional governments are so concerned. There is also a wrong perception based on the assumption that if Iran reached an agreement with the Western countries over its nuclear energy program, the existing problems between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia as well as some other regional countries, would be automatically solved. This line of thinking is basically flawed. If we succeeded in our nuclear negotiations [with the West], our country’s problems with Saudi Arabia would simply enter a new phase. Except for a short period of time, Saudi Arabia has been regularly endeavoring to reduce Iran’s deterrence power. During the past 80 years, Saudi Arabia has been always pushed into a passive position when it comes to comparison of its military power with Iran and is still in that position. Today, Saudi Arabia has no other choice but to form an alliance with the sworn enemy of the entire Arab ummah and Islamic ummah, that is, Israel, in pursuit of its anti-Iran foreign policy approach. As a result, it has been seeking to create crisis in the security environment of Iran, which has taken shape on the basis of Tehran’s support for resistance throughout the region. This crisis has been characterized by terrorism, violence, and efforts to topple [the Syrian government] in cooperation with secret services of certain Western countries, which are suffering from strategic mistakes in their security and intelligence calculations.

The elections in Iraq proved beyond any doubt that the general direction of Iran’s foreign policy in supporting the government of [the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] Al-Maliki has been correct. During the past elections, it took almost nine months before Nouri Al-Maliki could establish his power and be elected as the prime minister of Iraq. Even [former Iranian president] Mr. [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad was influenced by certain friends and foreign messages into opposing Nouri Al-Maliki and making remarks in this regard. However, the regional foreign policy of the Islamic Republic, which has been delineated by the Leader [of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei] was based on awareness of realities, which helped the foreign policy of the Islamic establishment to be drawn up in such a way as to protect the national interests of the country.

The Leader has constantly emphasized that today, the heads of political parties, various clans, elders, elites and sources of emulation in Iraq should direct their strives toward strengthening of the regional standing of the Shia community, promotion of the Islamic unity, and peaceful coexistence among Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds. To this end, they should know that this is totally in line with the realization of a free, modern and democratic Iraq; an Iraq which wants to – and should – develop and remain secure as well. The Leader’s remarks have been accurate and to the point. At the same time, however, Turkey and Saudi Arabia had other plans. Before the outbreak of the ongoing crisis in Syria, even Bashar Assad followed a different policy. At that time, Iran was almost alone and isolated in its position, but continued to defend the establishment of a powerful government in Iraq. During the past decade, the Islamic Republic of Iran has never tried to see a specific person in power in Iraq and has never focused its political support on a single person. Even today, when it comes to Iran’s policy toward the friendly and neighboring country of Iraq, there is no specific focus on Mr. Nouri Al-Maliki. The power in Iraq is currently in the hands of one person and tomorrow, another person will be at the helm. Iran’s main concern has been – and still is – to support the idea of the existence of a centralized and powerful government, which would be able to help guarantee stability of political situation in Iraq and, on a higher level, help the common goal of establishing security across the entire region.

Key Words: Iran, Iraq, Regional Strategic Issues, Middle East Region, Military Intervention, Collective Security, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Shia Community, Nouri Al-Maliki, Kharrazi

Source: Kharazi.IR
http://www.kharazi.ir/
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Seyyed Mohammad Sadeq Kharrazi:

*Chemical Catastrophe in Damascus: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Chemical-Catastrophe-in-Damascus.htm

*Gaza Crisis: Goals and Consequences: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Gaza-Crisis-Goals-and-Consequences.htm

*Iran Should Revise its Middle East Policy: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran_Should_Revise_its_Middle_East_Policy.htm

*Photo Credit: Iraq-Business News, Middle East Radio

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