by Atousa Pilger
The ongoing protests in Iran are making the Iranian regime extremely concerned about its future. The country is in a state of chaos with the people calling out for an end to the rule of the corrupt regime. The people want freedom, democracy and human rights, and they are quite rightly very concerned about their future.
The protests in Iran are also having an effect on Iraq. There is an area of Iraq called the “Green Zone”. It is a closed and fortified area in Baghdad and it has been pointed out that those in control of the area are worried.
The zone has been nicknamed the “arrogant zone” by some. The area is controlled by the ruling political class and it was an area that Saddam Hussein once had control over. It is seen by many Iraqis as a symbol of the wealth that their rulers have stolen; an accusation that the rulers have not denied.
Members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are frequently seen in the area. This is something that the Iraqi people do not like because it is damaging to their national pride.
The Iraqis believe that the political leaders of their country are led by Iran and that it is working closely with, or for, the Iranian regime. It is clear that Iran has a large influence in Iraq and it is strengthening its military, economic and political presence in the country.
This has not gone unnoticed by the people of Iraq and the Iranian regime does not deny it. Just like the Iranian regime does not deny its presence elsewhere in the region, namely Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s IRGC, is frequently spotted in Iraq and he has been seen on numerous occasions at the war front against ISIS. He has also been seen in Baghdad’s Green Zone where he appears at ease alongside the local military forces.
Since the start of the protests in Iran at the end of last month, the people of Iraq have been paying attention to the developments. They can get a picture of what is going on via social media, and journalists and activists in Iraq have been declaring their support for the Iranian people. They too understand the struggle and they have themselves been participating in protests in their country. They want an end to corruption in Iraq, better social and public services and political change.
The protests in Iran are also a source of positivity for the people of Iraq. If the Iranian regime loses its grip on power at home, the grip it has on Iraq will also ease.
There is also legitimate concern that the Iranian regime, in its fragile state, will take a hard line in its foreign policy faced with the very public discontent. Iran exports its crises abroad to avoid the problems at home, so this could leave Iran, and Iraq, in a worse state than it already is.