Now that we’ve witnessed the liberation of Mosul, the battle for the town of Tal Afar is predicted to end soon. This opens an opportunity for Iraq to distance itself from Iran.
Iraqi officials have been visiting Saudi Arabia and other Arab Sunni states, signaling that changes may be in store. Late in July, the Sadrist leader Muqtada was seen meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. Days later, Sadr also visited the United Arab Emirates, who has also criticized Iran’s policies. During Sadr’s visit, launching a Saudi Consulate in Najaf, one of the two holiest Shiite cities in Iraq, was proposed, and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, did not block the proposition.
Iran has criticized Sadr’s visits to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, calling it an act of betrayal to the Houthis in Yemen.
However, Sadr is also planning a visit to Egypt, and other senior Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the ministers of foreign affairs, interior, oil and transportation plan to visit Saudi Arabia.
After 14 years invested in Iraq, Iran has not been the recipient of visits of such high stature.
Iran’s has taken the credit for much of the fight against ISIS on the ground, but it stands accused of violations of the law and refusing to obey the state of Iraq. This has become a major issue for former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is known to have close relations with Tehran and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
As well, Majid al-Nasrawi, governor of Basra recently left for Iran. He is accused by a government transparency committee of numerous corruption offenses.
There are also 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. In fact, on August 14th, the Cabinet of Saudi Arabia announced 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 are talks of opening border crossings and establishing free trade areas between the two countries. Riyadh is leading the way for the Arab world against Tehran’s interests in Iraq.
Iran’s eviction from Iraq must come along with efforts to end its presence in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. The Iranian regime’s meddling and the IRGC’s presence across the region are the main obstacles to establishing peace in the region. Support by the Arab world for Iraq will fill the economic void. The US Congress’ new bill against the IRGC, give Riyadh the chance to expel all IRGC members, and Iran-related elements from the region.This will allow peace in the Middle East.