As one would expect, Iran’s role in Iraqi affairs was a common theme in Dexter Filkins’ comments to Terry Gross on the April 29th edition of the NPR program Fresh Air. Filkins covered the Iraq war from start to finish as a reporter for the New York Times. Now a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, he has written an in-depth article summing up the situation in Iraq since the US left the nation to its own devices.
However, “its own devices,” may not be the right phrase, since foreign influence is extensive. According to Filkins, the US’s wholesale abandonment of Iraq was tantamount to handing the country to the Iranians. The fact that the US installed Maliki as Prime Minister and then left no reserve forces in the country has led to what Filkins describes as “one of the great ironies of the war”: that after so much spending and so many US casualties, the lasting power in Iraq has not been the US, but Iran.
Filkins paints a bleak picture of the state of Iraq, describing the entire region as “disintegrating” and claiming that sectarian conflict is so ingrained that the country is on the brink of a new civil war. Maliki has reportedly contributed as much as anyone to this discord, establishing a government that is basically Shia and serves the interests of that group, rather than the nation of Iraq as a whole.
That self-serving government is also backed by a National Intelligence Service, which the US helped to set up, but which has since been purged of all Sunni presence and is now supported by Iran, according to Filkins.
He also delves into the historical roots of the mutually supportive relationship between Maliki and Iran, where the current Iraqi Prime Minister spent seven years in his youth. Filkins indicates that there is some evidence that he may have even been in the Iranian terrorist organization Hezbollah. In any event, Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party did undertake Iranian terrorist operations from bases in Syria and elsewhere during the years when Saddam Hussein was ruling Iraq.
All of this leads Filkins to claim that Maliki considers himself “beholden” to the Iranian regime. And this indebtedness stands to last long into the future. After all, Filkins claims that the most common fear in Iraq in the lead-up to its April 30 national elections was that if Maliki won a third term, he would never leave office.
If Maliki doesn’t relinquish control of Iraq, it seems safe to say that neither will Tehran.