Sami Ramadani, a professor at London Metropolitan University who fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, writes that Iranian influence in Iraq is ‘highly exaggerated’. These overstated allegations, he implies, are especially rich coming from the United States, which Ramadani calls “the foremost foreign influence” in Iraq.
Ramadani, in the Guardian‘s Comment Is Free section, takes a crack at some of the motivations for overstating Iranian influence. The historical allusions are worth noting. He writes:
The reality is that though Iran does have influence there – born of US failure to subdue Iraq – the extent and potency of that influence is nowhere near that which is being claimed.
Iranian influence is highly exaggerated for a number of distinct but convergent reasons. First, the US is still considering a military strike against Iran in order to cripple its economic and military infrastructure. A glance at a political map of the Middle East shows that Iran is the only major power that actively opposes US and Israeli policies in the region. But the map also shows that the US has Iran encircled with formidable firepower, including nuclear missiles aboard the US fleets roaming the seas near Iran. Indeed, the Bush administration was only discouraged from attacking Iran after the mission in Iraq was sucked into the quicksands of resistance.
The truth is that, 31 years after the overthrow of one of its closest allies and the rise of a new political order in Iran, successive US administrations have been at a loss as to how to regain a foothold there. They backed Saddam’s war against Iran in 1980 and are still hoping to use Iraq as a military and political base to destabilise or attack Iran. There are credible reports that Iraq’s long borders with Iran are being used to smuggle in arms and spies. Most Iraqis are opposed to Iran’s manoeuvrings with corrupt Iraqi politicians, but a close examination of Iranian policies reveals that they are guided by an intense fear of being crippled by a US or Israeli attack.
Second, there are other players, Iraqi and regional, who are keen on exaggerating Iran’s influence in Iraq. Saddam loyalists, for example, who insist that Iran is a greater danger to Iraq than American occupation. Or the myriad Iraqi politicians who believe that hostility to Iran is their ticket to gaining US backing. Even the Islamic Supreme Council, a sectarian party led by the Shia cleric Ammar al-Hakim – whose forces were stationed in Iran before 2003 – have been drawn into the realities of US domination and been distancing themselves from the more anti-US Iranians, led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.