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Iran’s JCPOA woes might be Good for Iraq

May 15, 2018

Iran’s JCPOA woes might be Good for Iraq

“Iran barra barra, Baghdad Hurra Hurra” (Iran out out, Baghdad is Free Free) are the chants heard around Baghdad during and after the recent election. Despite the low 44% -out of 24 million eligible- election turnout, the results speak of an indictment of a status quo steeped in economic corruption and Iran’s interference. The Shia cleric Muktada al-Sadar’s allaince Sa’iroon, was ahead of al-Fatah bloc which is composed of Hashed leaders close to Iran, and al-Nasr coalition headed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi a US-ally. In other words, Muktada al-Sadr is now a kingmaker in Iraqi politics, with one tactical advantage of having a massive base of disillusioned Iraqis who are fed up with the run of the mill -often sectarian motivated- Iraqi politicians.


How did the recent US pull-out of the JCOPA nuclear agreement with Iran affect Iraq’s election?

  1. It increased the uncertainty associated with the Iran-Russia axis championed by Prime minister Nuri al-Maliki as a strategic substitute to the US and moderate Arab states.
  2. It showed Iraqis the discrepancies between Iran’s rhetoric of undermining US capabilities, and the reality that Iran has very limited, if not diminishing, control over regional economic and political affairs, let alone its domestic economic hardships.
  3. Iraqis saw Iran’s fall into the Israeli trap in Syria last Tuesday, a day after the US withdrawal from the agreement, when Israel attacked an Iranian military facility in Kisweh, south of Damascus, to which the IRGC opened fire on Israeli position in the Golan Heights. A perfect pretext for Israel to launch on all-out assault on Iranian facilities across Syria. Again, the Iraqis witnessed Iranian political rhetoric that could not match a professional tactical Israeli military maneuver.
  4. The Hashd bloc is further pressured to assimilate within Iraq’s institutional structure, despite the difficulties with having seven of its Hashed leaders on international terror lists, and now its Iranian IRGC backers are threatened with further US sanctions.


What are the opportunities created by the recent election results in Iraq?

  1. The moderate Arab states, especially KSA and UAE, have an opportunity to build on their rapprochement with Iraq and further weaken the pro-Iran branch within Iraqi politics and strengthen Iraq’s economic, trade and cultural ties in the Arab region, especially with Jordan, Kuwait and KSA.
  2. Iraqi Shias have a historical tradition of opposing Iran’s interference and protecting Najaf as the leading religious institution for all Shia. As an example, in 1936 Iran’s Shah asked for maritime rights in Shatt al-Arab which was opposed by Muhsin Abu Tabikh and Alwan al-Yaseri and Abdul al-Wahid Sukkar (all Shia) in the Iraqi parliment. In 2003, Iran tried to take over Iraqi oil fields in the south, which was faced by massive demonstrations by Shia in Basra and surrounding areas until Iranian military retreated. There is an opportunity to revive this historical Iraqi tradition.
  3. Sa’iroon coalition might be able to create anti-corruption accountability processes to satisfy popular demands, since the only positive element that motivated Iraqi’s to vote for al-Abadi was the defeat of ISIS and al-Abadi needs another winning domestic strategy to garner support.

For iStrategic