Olivium IndexAbout usContact us
Olivium Logo
Olivium Logo

Iran has intervened in Iraq to suppress destabilizing domestic turmoil sparked by militias backed by Iran. The moves come as Tehran tries to maintain its clout while negotiating with the US about its nuclear ambitions.

Last month, hours after an attack on the Iraqi prime minister's house that some officials in Baghdad placed on Iran-backed militias, a high-level intervention 

occurred.

Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a populist candidate hostile to Iranian influence, came out on top. According to militia officials, Iraqi politicians sympathetic to the militias, Western diplomats, and an Iraqi security source acquainted with the negotiations, Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, one of Tehran's most senior military commanders, hurried to Baghdad. Ghaani had a message for pro-Iranian militias who refused to accept the preliminary results of the parliamentary elections on October 10. Ghaani's message is simple: Accept the outcome.

According to people familiar with the meeting, Ghaani, the commander of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), who oversees the country's foreign military operations, told the leaders of two militias that petty politics was jeopardizing the power of Iraq's ruling Shi'ite majority, through which Iran wields influence.

The armed drone strike on Prime Minister Mustafa al-house Kadhimi's on November 7 signified a major escalation in tensions between opposing Shi'ite parties that had been growing in previous months. Sadr has allied himself with Kadhimi. At the election, the Fatah parliamentary coalition of pro-Tehran militia-linked factions suffered a huge loss, losing dozens of seats.

Ghaani berated the two commanders of key Iran-backed militia groups at a brief meeting in the office of a veteran Iran-backed politician in Baghdad, accusing them of improperly handling the aftermath of the election. One of the militia officials who has firsthand knowledge of the interaction and two politicians intimately linked with the militias and who were informed on the meeting recounted the meeting to Reuters.

According to the official and two lawmakers, Ghaani, accompanied by a small team, instructed both militia commanders to bring their fans and militants under control.

The Iranians were enraged, according to the militia official. "Do you want a Shi'ite civil war?" one Iranian official questioned, he claimed. The official refused to name the Iranian who said those things.

Ghaani led the meeting, according to five other militia officials, two Western diplomats, and an Iraqi security officials who were briefed on it. Ghaani warned the Iranian-backed parties to quit fueling turmoil in Iraq, according to all of these sources.

The Iranian government did not reply to requests for comment for this piece while condemning the November 7 incident at the time. The Revolutionary Guards did not answer written queries, and when approached by phone for this piece, the Guards' public relations office did not react.

Reuters likewise received no responses to inquiries forwarded to Ghaani through the Iranian government and the IRGC. Ghaani visited Iraq after the incident, according to Iranian official media, although nothing is known about his activities there.

A request for response from the Iraqi prime minister's office was not returned. The previously unknown story of Ghaani's voyage to Baghdad is one of several recent Iranian initiatives aimed at averting increasing bloodshed between contending Shi'ite parties, which threatens Iran's dominance in Iraq and destabilizes the region. Iran's militia partners have also carried out attacks against American assets in Iraq.

Intra-Shi'ite tensions in Iraq are an unpleasant diversion for Tehran, in indirect negotiations with Washington about renewing a 2015 nuclear deal. Former US President Donald Trump tore up the agreement, which exempted Iran from economic sanctions to restrict its nuclear program.

The visit gives a rare glimpse into Ghaani's Iraq-related actions as chief of the Quds Force, the IRGC's wing in charge of its affiliated forces overseas.

After his predecessor, Qassem Soleimani was slain in a drone attack while visiting Baghdad. He took up the job in January 2020. Increased efforts to suppress militias have been a feature of Ghaani's term. According to militia officials, Iraqi politicians close to the militias, Western diplomats, and an Iraqi security source, Iran used to have an easier time commanding its proxies in Iraq.

In Iraq, Tehran's military and political partners began as paramilitary groups sponsored and trained by Iran and then grew political wings. They currently control portions of Iraq's economy and governmental institutions as heavily armed hybrid military-political factions. According to Iraqi authorities, this power has empowered certain militia commanders to operate more independently of Tehran. Some militia leaders privately remark that Ghaani lacks his predecessor's charm and command of Arabic.

According to a militia official with firsthand knowledge of the meeting and two politicians linked to militias, Ghaani met with Hadi al-Amiri, a longtime Iranian paramilitary partner, and another political-military commander, Qais al-Khazali.

Amiri's and Khazali's offices did not reply to calls for comment. Amiri has spoken out against the attack. Khazali has blamed unidentified actors.

Iran-backed militias have openly described the November 7 attack as a plot to tarnish their reputation and create turmoil in Iraq. Reuters reached out to several Iran-backed militias, but they did not reply to calls for comment on the incident.

Tensions between rival Shi'ite parties have been high in recent weeks. The Iraqi judiciary is poised to validate election results, potentially fueling dissatisfaction in the next few days. After December 31, when one militia organization, Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, publicly called on people opposed to the US staying in Iraq to prepare for conflict, another crucial test for Iran's capacity to keep tensions in check might occur.

The US military has denounced attacks against its soldiers by Iran-aligned militias, and it has stated that it has the right to respond to any lethal strikes.

Josling for Power

Since the 2003 US-led war that deposed Sunni tyrant Saddam Hussein, Shi'ite factions have dominated Iraqi politics. They come from various Shi'ite groups, the majority of which had armed wings, but they currently fall into one of two camps: pro-Iran and anti-Iran.

The US military has denounced attacks against its soldiers by Iran-aligned militias, and it has stated that it has the right to respond to any lethal strikes.

JOSTLING FOR POWER (JOSTLING FOR POWER)

Since the 2003 US-led war that deposed Sunni tyrant Saddam Hussein, Shi'ite factions have dominated Iraqi politics. They come from various Shi'ite groups, the majority of which had armed wings, but they currently fall into one of two camps: pro-Iran and anti-Iran.

Iraq's major political groups are now discussing the formation of a coalition. Sadr, the Shi'ite cleric whose coalition won the most parliamentary seats, said he would support anybody who prioritizes Iraq's national interests, such as providing basic amenities to its citizens. According to Iraqi officials and Western diplomats, this indicates that he may rule out some Iran-backed factions in favour of Kurdish and Sunni parties.

Tensions have risen in the last year or two, particularly in the aftermath of the last election, as factions vied for control.

According to two lawmakers connected to militias, Ghaani met with the commander of Iraq's state paramilitary forces, dominated by Iranian proxy organizations, after the November 7 attack in Baghdad. According to the MPs, Ghaani sent the identical message to the commander, Abdul Aziz al-Mohammedawi, a longstanding Iran-backed operator. In response to queries regarding the meeting, Mohammedawi's office did not comment.

BOYCOTT THE ELECTION

At other times, such as in the run-up to the elections, Iranian authorities interfered in an attempt to defuse intra-Shi'ite tensions.

Sadr had declared his boycott of the election in July, stating that unnamed adversaries were attempting to destabilize Iraq and put it on him.

Sadr's political office declined to react through a spokesperson.

Written By: Olivium's Staff.

Web Design & Development - PIT Designs
Top