Alwaght- During the 25th Persian Gulf Cup football tournament hosted by Iraq, the country’s Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani used the fake name of Arabian Gulf for Persian Gulf, stirring a controversy and causing Iran to summon the Iraqi ambassador and protest the fake naming to avoid further stances that endanger bilateral relations. Shortly later, to surprise of many, the PM supported the US military presence in his country for training and what he called fighting ISIS, feeding Arab media analyses that suggested these comments showed Baghdad convergence with the Arab world and distancing from Tehran.
Alwaght has discussed the issue with Asghsr Zaree, an expert of West Asian affairs.
Using fake names would not damage bilateral relations
Asked about the Iraqi officials’ recent stances and Iranian reactions, Mr Zaree said that al-Sudani assumed the power with the help of Iran-backed resistance groups, and this united the Iraqi governance system. The president and the PM were elected with an initiative presented by the Shiite Coordination Framework (SCF) after months of political stalemate and the stability in the country is a product of their efforts and Iranian support. Given the structural conditions governing Iraqi society, it was expected that after al-Sudani assumption of power, Iraq-Iran relations would see further improvement and expand at all levels and this happened.
But al-Sudani made incorrect stances during the Persian Gulf Cup and even Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid and the influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr repeated them. In an interview with Germany’s DW news network, Sudani repeated the fake name for Persian Gulf in an undiplomatic manner. It seems that a faction is seeking to abuse the emerged political atmosphere to wrest privileges from Iran.
Certainly, Mr Zaree continued, Iran’s government and people distinguish between the stances made by some Iraqi officials and the dominant atmosphere of the Iraqi society, and, indeed, regard these stances as imposed on the Iraqi government by some regional and international actors.
After al-Sudani took his post, Iraq established a special tribunal to prosecute those involved in assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraq’s Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Ultimately, in cooperation with Iran’s judiciary, it issued an arrest warrant to ex-US President Donald Trump and some of his administration officials, as well as accomplices. Even it was rumored that former Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi who was also suspected of assisting the assassination fled to the UAE. Iran expects this gulf to remain being called Persian Gulf as historical documents have the same name for it. In documents of the foreign ministries of the Arab countries and the UN Secretariat, Persian Gulf is the confirmed original name.
Therefore using fake name for Persian Gulf is a mischief that has been made since years ago by the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council. Referring to historical documents, Iran has always reacted to such misnomer, and, taking necessary measures, it has not allowed the fake name to normalize. This time, too, Iran should do the same thing, no matter who or in what ranking is the official doing this misnaming.
Indeed, Iran, besides maintaining principles of international cooperation and friendship, would not allow such fake naming to damage bilateral relations, and actually it would not back down from its historical rights and national interests.
It should be noted that Iraq now owes its independence and stability to the Islamic Republic, and the stabilizing political developments that happened in Iraq were impossible without the support of Tehran and the resistance groups, and if it were not for the assistance of the Islamic Republic, Iraq would still be involved in instability and ethnic and tribal conflicts. All these gains were made in the shadow of sacrifices of General Qassem Soleimani and his comrades who established stability in this country by obliterating terrorism.
Separating ways from resistance certainly not serving Iraq
Commenting on policy adopted by some Iraqi politicians who seek to strengthen alignment with the Arab world and its influence on the ties with Iran, Mr Zaree noted that the Arab League contains 22 countries and Iraq, which in the past was an important and influential actor, is one of them. Iraq is trying to revive its past power and position in the Arab world. But the conditions in this country are volatile now, and if al-Sudani and other official intend to trade their national security and stability and align with some US-aligned Arab countries under the excuse of reviving past position, they would not succeed.
Al-Sudani and other Iraqi officials should know that if Iran withdraws its support, instability and insecurity will return to Iraq and any distancing from pro-resistance policies is definitely not in the interest of the country’s sovereignty. The Shiite supreme clergy will also react to the factions that want to separate Iran and Iraq. Therefore, the Iraqi authorities, including al-Sudani and the president, must know that Tehran seriously reacts to any action that weakens the foothold of Iran and the resistance in Iraq and will not allow some Baghdad officials to abuse the existing conditions.
Iraqi society to react to ignoring foreign force expulsion law
Commenting on the contraction between al-Sudani’s demand for the American military stay in Iraq and the political demands of the SCF that supported his rise to power, Mr Zaree suggested that the shift in the PM’s position in recent weeks indicates that a faction in Iraq is looking to create a gap between Iran and Iraq, but the Shiite Coordination Framework and resistance groups set some conditions that al-Sudani should commit to. Besides, the Iraqi parliament officially approved a bill calling for expulsion of the US forces from the country on January 6, 2020, three days after the US military assassinated with direct order from Trump top Iranian and Iraqi anti-terror commanders General Soleimani and al-Muhandis. The parliament also ordered prosecution process to bring to justice those behind the assassination. So, the contradictory stances by some Iraqi officials show that he and his circle are under pressure to make such stances. But they should know that ignoring the expulsion law would draw reactions from people and political factions.
Asked about the rumored gaps inside the body of SCF and their possible impacts, Mr Zaree replied that if there is a gap inside the Shiite Coordination Framework and al-Sudani government wants to continue distancing from the resistance groups, the gaps would deepen in the future and the country would be hit by political instability in the political and social body with unpredictable consequences. If the political gaps continue, the enemies of nations of Iran and Iraq would restart their destabilization project.
Al-Sadr mulls returning to politics
In his final comments, Mr Zaree referred to a recent call by the Muqtada al-Sadr for holding Friday prayers and its messages to the Iraqi politics. He said that al-Sadr has a highly erratic and dubious character and does not know what he is after. In recent years, he has repeatedly taken contradictory stances. He resorted to fomenting a crisis after a failure to form his favorable government. This crisis could sink Iraq in a deeper crisis but with interference of the Shiite clergy, he walked back from his position and then walked out of politics. He seems to have been motivated to return but this time, too, he makes no difference.