Formerly, Iraq was a melting pot where Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens lived alongside each other. This was before Iran began meddling, when the Shiite majority lived with Sunni, Christian, Yazidi and all other religious minorities.
Heshmat Alavi, in his article in Al Arabiya , asks “Has not the time arrived for Iraq to regain its true position as part of the Arab world, and rid its soil of the meddling of Iran’s clerics?”
Iraqi officials have been visiting Saudi Arabia and other Arab Sunni states. The influential Sadrist leader Muqtada was seen in July, meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. Days later, Sadr visited the United Arab Emirates, who are also critics of Iran’s policies, where he was welcomed as an Iraqi leader by a slate of leading politicians and clerics.
“Sadr’s visit rendered a variety of measures by Riyadh, including launching a Saudi Consulate in Sadr’s hometown of Najaf, one of the two holiest Shiite cities in Iraq. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, known as Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric, his distance from Tehran’s viewpoints and calling for Iraq to practice openness in establishing relations, did not block such a proposition,” Alavi writes, and adds, “Iran, however, resorted to strong remarks against Sadr for his visits to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The visit was even described by a local wire as an act of betrayal to the Houthis in Yemen.”
While taking the credit for much of the fight against ISIS on the ground, Iran’s proxies have been accused of law violations and refusing to obey the state of Iraq. Iraqi authorities affiliated to Iran have a very poor record of being involved in corruption and sacrificing Iraqi national interest in Tehran’s favor, which became a major issue during the second term of former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Alavi writes that some describe Maliki as Iran’s “puppet,” and says that. “Maliki is known to have close relations with Tehran and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself.”
Majid al-Nasrawi, the governor of the oil-rich city of Basra located at the southern tip of Iraq, recently left for Iran. His departure followed his being accused of corruption offenses by a government transparency committee. “Choosing Iran as a destination has left further impression of him fleeing to a safe haven, and Tehran having a hand in Iraqi corruption,” according to Alavi.
Sadr and other Iraqi officials continue their meetings with senior Arab officials of the region, and there are major talks underway between Baghdad and Riyadh to establish a new alliance that would provide Saudi Arabia a leading role in rebuilding war-torn cities across Iraq.
The Cabinet of Saudi Arabia announced on August 14th a coordination committee to spearhead a variety of health care and humanitarian projects, including building hospitals in Baghdad and Basra, and providing fellowships to Iraqi students in Saudi universities.
Also on the agenda is the opening of border crossings and establishing free trade areas between the two countries.
Alavi writes, “Riyadh should lead the Arab world in tipping the balance of power against Tehran’s interests in Iraq. The truth is Iran has not carried out any major economic project in Iraq from 2003 onward, due to the fact that the mullahs do not seek the prosperity of their western neighbor,” and concludes, “Saudi Arabia and the Arab world should provide the support Iraq needs after suffering from Iran’s menacing influence that has brought nothing but death and destruction. Evicting Iran from Iraq must come parallel to efforts of ending its presence in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.”