The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran), reported that as Iraqi voters go to the elections on October 10, the spotlight has been cast on Iran’s disproportionate influence, as well as the growing popular pushback against it.
The early parliamentary vote is a concession to a pro-democracy movement that has criticised Iraq’s political system as inefficient, corrupt, and loyal to Iran.
“One of the more alarming things for Iran in Iraq right now is the huge sense of public dissatisfaction towards Iran,” political professor Marsin Alshamary remarked.
“That’s one of the things Iran wasn’t expecting and something it has to grapple with,” the Harvard Kennedy School expert explained.
In November 2019, at the height of huge protests, enraged demonstrators assaulted and set fire to Iran’s embassy in Najaf, shouting “Get out of Iraq!”
Pro-Iranian elements in Iraq
When a large number of protestors were killed by gunmen, campaigners blamed pro-Iranian elements in Iraq, which the US blames for attacks on its interests there. Many pro-Iranian Shiite militias are part of the paramilitary network known as Hashed al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Forces, which was founded in 2014 to combat the Islamic State group. Since then, it has been assimilated into Iraq’s security system.
Iraq’s relations with its larger eastern neighbour have historically been tumultuous. Following Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein launched an invasion over a border issue, igniting the devastating 1980-1988 war.
However, after Saddam Hussein was deposed by a US-led invasion in 2003, which sparked years of insurgency, Iran has gained significant influence in Iraq.
Iran has also become one of Iraq’s most important commercial partners, a significant boost for the Islamic republic, which has been hit by sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme.
Hashed candidates were able to enter parliament
Following the defeat of ISIS, Hashed candidates were able to enter parliament for the first time in the 2018 election, which had record abstentions. They are attempting to strengthen their position in the chamber today, but experts remain sceptical.
The relationship with Tehran is nothing to be ashamed of for pro-Iranian legislators.
Baghdad congressman Ahmed Assadi, a key figure in the Hashed caucus, remarked in a recent TV interview that “our relationship with the Islamic republic is not a new one, it is a strategic one.”
He stated, “There is no submission or alignment,” “It is a relationship based on the balance between the interests of Iraq and the interests of the Islamic republic.”
According to Mohammed Mohie, a spokesman for the Kataeb Hezbollah, a strong Hashed faction, “The Iraqi people’s interests are served by strengthening connections with Iran.”
The International Crisis Group’s Lahib Hegel predicted that pro-Iran parties would gain seats in parliament “to maintain a roughly equal number of seats I don’t believe there will be a major increase in their pay “.
Tehran, she added, will be hoping for a positive outcome “a prime minister with whom they can work and who is willing to support their agenda.”