US defence secretary Leon Panetta signed a document at the end of 2011 ending the war in Iraq. However, there was no jubilation in Iraq after the departure of the last US tank. One reason could be that after the US invasion and Saddam Hussein’s ouster, Iraq came under the control of Iran. What Washington did was actually hand over the keys of Iraq to Iran on a gold plate, and another chapter of Iranian domination over Iraq started, and became complete with the ascension to power of Nouri Al Maliki as prime minister.
In two years of Arab Spring, the pace of political developments in the region has been dizzying.
Several regimes crumbled. But despite the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, Ben Ali, Muammar Gaddafi and Ali Abdullah Saleh, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has been able to cling to power despite a continuing revolution. The reason for this is Iranian support, which has helped the regime to resist a revolution of close to two years.
All these developments are pointing to the increasing influence of Iran in the region. Add to this the latest developments in Iraq (which is being called Iraq Spring), where Sunnis are rising in protest against discrimination by the Maliki-led government.
The Sunni protests started in Fallujah in Anbar province and then quickly spread to other areas like Samarra, Ramadi, Tikrit and Mosul. The protesters are seeking the overthrow of the sectarian government in Baghdad and an end to Sunnis’ marginalisation.
It seems that the outbreak of Iraq Spring is linked to the Syrian Spring, because, if the Syrian revolution succeeds, the Iraqi Sunni Spring will be successful too. And the reason behind this link is the Iranian control over the situations in both countries – Tehran’s support to Al Assad in Syria and Al Maliki in Iraq.
Iran is well aware of the importance of the survival of both regimes for its strategic interests and wants to consolidate the Shia Crescent in the Middle East, and also wants to continue to export the ideology of Faqih (Jurist) governance.
Thus, Iran is trying with all its strength to maintain the Alawite regime in Syria and Shia rule in Iraq.
Others see a different strategy by Iran. Tehran’s support is worsening and complicating the situation in Iraq and it is using sectarianism to further its interests. By using the weapon of sectarianism, it’s trying to ease international pressure on the government of Assad, and there are fears that the unrest could spill into Lebanon in the coming months and cause chaos there.
Another interpretation of these events is that the US withdrawal from Iraq and its handover to Iran could be a trap by Washington, to keep Iran stuck in Iraq and thus keep it away from the Gulf states and oil resources.
It’s also possible that history may repeat itself and make us witness another Iraq-Iran war with the same bitter results. This time the war will be in a new form – a Sunni-Shia war in which Iran is expected to support Shias in Iraq and the GCC the Sunnis in Iraq, in the same way as they supported Saddam Hussein.
The coming days will reveal what we do not know. The current developments show that the situation is moving towards a sectarian war in the region, and more specifically between Arabs and Persians, who may use Iraq as a battlefield.
But Arabs (Sunnis and Shias) should not get dragged into the policy of Faqih and Murshed ideology and must prevent the realization of Zionist plans to destabilise the Arab world.