May 14, 2019
Iraqi statesmen and officials have been voicing their fears of their country being caught in the eye of the storm whirling between Washington and Tehran as a conflict of interests threatens Iraq’s future ties with each side.
Some predict that Iran, which had honed a large number of proxies in Iraq, would target American interests in the Middle Eastern country should a war erupt.
But a balance of powers within Iraq suggests that Iranian auxiliary militias in Iraq and its regional military might are not enough to impact sizable damage to US interests, especially as the US President Donald Trump’s administration has shown serious signs of preparedness to shield from Iranian retaliation.
Apart from the risk of engaging in asymmetric warfare, longtime championed pro-Iran politicians and religious figures in Iraq are looking to adopt a disassociation policy in the case of Iran-US confrontation.
“A senior Iran loyalist official in Iraq has informed the US embassy that they will be staying out of the growing Washington-Tehran dispute and that rhetorically violent statements they have been making are for local face-saving only,” a well-informed source told Asharq Al-Awsat. This signals a shift in the attitude of Iraqi Shiites who have generally kept close to the clerical regime in Tehran.
Iraqi Communist Party leader Raed Fahmi points to the US Embassy in Baghdad warning nationals against traveling to Iraq due to “heightened tensions” in the Middle East.
The warning came amid rising tensions between Washington and Iran, a sign of which was the US decision to send a Patriot missile battery and a Navy amphibious transport dock ship to the Middle East.
But on the other hand, Fahmi ruled out pro-Iran proxies in Iraq acting on behalf of Iranian interests.
“Iran’s allies in Iraq, even armed factions loyal to the Iranian supreme leader, have openly declared they will not go after American targets in Iraq because there is a full comprehension to the national risk in place,” Fahmi told Asharq Al-Awsat.