Since 2003, the Iraqi people have consistently tried to subvert a covert occupation by Tehran. In their demonstrations, Iraqis have frequently chanted, “Iran; out, out; Baghdad should remain free.”
During the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) transferred Iraqi captives to a northern barracks and tortured them to death. The IRGC then formed Shiite militias from those captives who succumbed and betrayed their country.
IRGC Brig. Esmail Daghayeghi later integrated these militias into the IRGC forces under the banner of the Ninth Badr Organization in 1982. Following the ceasefire in June 1988, Tehran exploited these militias for terror attempts against the opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), and destabilized Iraq.
Nineteen Years of Tehran Militias’ Rule in Baghdad
After the international coalition conquered Iraq in 2003, Tehran-backed militias utterly ruled Iraq for around two decades. The mullahs of the Iranian regime exercised their influence on the country and seized all elements of power through these ruthless gangs.
The Iranian Resistance, time and again, warned the international community about the regime’s regional influence on the Middle East. In a speech in October 2007, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said, “The danger of the Iranian regime’s meddling and terrorism in Iraq is a hundred times more dangerous than its nuclear threat.”
The Iranian regime merely saw Iraq as a gate to dominate the Middle East and extend its power to Jerusalem and the Horn of Africa. The mullahs found an occupied Iraq the best opportunity to materialize regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini’s dream of a ‘Shiite Crescent Empire’.
During this period, the Iraqi people repeatedly revolted against the Iranian regime’s meddling and proxies. However, public protests, sit-ins, and even military confrontations with Tehran-backed militias ended in bloodbaths.
At their last uprising, known as the ‘October Revolution, the Iraqi people toppled Tehran-backed Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi following bloody clashes with militias.
The regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dispatched Qassem Soleimani, the slain IRGC-Quds Force commander, to preserve al-Abadi in power. Soleimani personally led the bloody crackdown on defenseless protesters, and his murderers deliberately targeted citizens and demonstration leaders. Despite this, the Iraqis’ willingness eventually prevailed.
The Iranian regime did whatever it took to continue to hold its power in Iraq. It orchestrated many assassination plots against activists by its ambassadors in Iraq, who had all been IRGC-Quds Force generals since 2003. In 2021, Tehran also launched a futile drone attack against Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
Tehran-Backed Militias Remove Their Commanders from Power
The mullahs’ influence on Iraq received an incredible blow in the last parliamentary election. The militias and their front parties lost their majority in the parliament, leading to severe political rivalries.
In the end, the ‘Shiite Cooperation’ fraction ousted the former Prime Minister and one of the loyalists of Khamenei Nouri al-Maliki. The fraction also removed the name of Hadi al-Ameri, the Ninth Badr Organization chief, from the list of nominees for the prime minister seat on July 19.
Remarkably, al-Maliki is the head of the ‘State of Law Coalition’. He is one of the officials most loyal to Tehran and previously orchestrated several deadly attacks against the MEK’s home Ashraf in the Diyala governorate. According to Soleimani’s order, al-Maliki’s cabinet also imposed a restrictive medical siege on MEK members, causing the demise of dozens of dissidents.
Al-Ameri is the head of the ‘Al-Fath coalition’. For decades, al-Ameri led Iraqi mercenaries in the country and masterminded terror attempts against the Iraqi people and Iranian opposition. He is notorious for kissing Khamenei’s hand in public as a sign of his loyalty to the regime in Iran.
At the same time, an Iraqi journalist revealed an audio tape showing al-Maliki severely insulting his Shiite rival Moqtada al-Sadr, calling him a ‘thief’ and a ‘murderer’. Following the tape revelation, an investigating judge launched a legal prosecution against al-Maliki to scrutinize the tape. Observers said the audio file was a reason for putting al-Maliki aside from the running for Prime Minister.
Removing al-Maliki and al-Ameri is the most obvious signal of Tehran’s vulnerability in the region, particularly in Iraq. On the other hand, Khamenei is highly concerned about his fragile influence, which may undermine his regional power. Unconfirmed reports have stated that Khamenei has described Iraq ‘as an orphan’ without the influence of al-Maliki and al-Ameri, in a secret meeting with his lieutenants.