Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Baghdad and Beirut… Similarities and Rising Patriotism

Baghdad and Beirut… Similarities and Rising Patriotism

Saturday, 13 November, 2021 - 11:00

An objective reading of the situation in Iraq and Lebanon leads us to only one conclusion; the accused is one and the same, and has been convicted.

Contemplating the contours, scenes, scenarios, preparations and direction, we find similarities between the two countries, both of which are dominated by a foreign power, on every front. This power oversees the two countries’ policies, and the same director shapes the scene in both.

It is no longer a secret that militias loyal to Iran are behind the attack on the Iraqi prime minister’s home. The Hezbollah Brigades (Kataeb Hezbollah) and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, by the way, had threatened Khadimi a few days before the attack.

That fact, despite the dangers it demonstrates, is not the matter in question here. What is more critical is dissecting the actions and approach of a state explicitly sponsoring terror groups under its control. Large segments of the population in Lebanon and Iraq have put their factional, personal, partisan and ideological interest before the national interest.

Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tells a story worth pondering in her memoirs. Speaking to Nouri al-Maliki, who had been prime minister at the time, she brought up Sunni Arabs’ resentment at their exclusion from the army and security forces; he replied, “I can’t stand the Arabs, and I don’t trust them.”

This anecdote speaks volumes about how some Arab states are being governed, and it demonstrates the sectarian mindset of the leaders in Iran’s camp. It is no secret that Iran, which had managed to leave its feet there after the US forces’ withdrawal, is the beneficiary of this approach. Indeed, Tehran constantly and obnoxiously reiterates that it controls four Arab capitals.

The regional situation is marked by extreme political fluidity, with changes and developments unfolding at an increasingly fast pace. Thus, one cannot look into what is happening in Iraq and Lebanon in isolation from regional interventions and dynamics. The lack of an Arab strategy has contributed to the emergence of schisms and splits within Arab entities, granting regional powers the opportunity to establish strategic depth within them.

Iran and Israel are both working to serve their agendas by applying pressure on neighboring Arab regions or by deepening intra-Arab disputes.

Not so long ago, popular and patriotic forces mobilized in Iraq and Lebanon, aspiring to retrieve their country and save it from its regional kidnapper. Their message: enough is enough; the situation has become intolerable, and we cannot continue to keep quiet about what is happening.

The problems that have accumulated are immense, the suffering even worse, and the ruling regimes, parties, and leaders have become rotten with corruption, nepotism, and subordination to a foreign actor.

The conditions and the critical nature of the situation at the time pushed the majority of Iraqis and Lebanese to put the national interests before their factional interests, deciding to make independent decisions, meaning they chose to move away from the Iranian axis and change course by directing their compass towards the Arabs. Despite the earnest efforts made at the time, the protests were put down with the aim of creating a feeling of despondence and thus a loss of hope and acquiescence to the bitter reality emerged.

The axis took action in both countries. For example, parties and people in Iraq and Lebanon hostile to the prospect of rapprochement with the Gulf states placed impediments to prevent it. They did so because they believed such a rapprochement would threaten Iranian interests and were thus undermining their countries’ sovereignty to serve Tehran’s interests.

The picture is being drawn in both countries, and the similarities between Baghdad and Beirut leave their two pictures looking almost identical, with scenes repeating themselves and identical demands being made by the peoples of the two countries. Lebanon and Iraq’s suffering is there for all to see, and they broadly outline the state of affairs in the Arab world, with their sectarian tensions, issues of fragmentation and division, the failure of their development projects, their economic decline and political subordination.

The Lebanese people took to the streets at the time to call on political leaders and the government to leave, demanding that the country be governed within an institutional framework, whereby policy of sectarian marginalization and Iran’s hegemony over the country’s politics are done away with, a non-sectarian political system is solidified, militias are abolished, and all weapons fall in the state’s hands.

In Iraq, the election results were akin to a slap to Iran and its militias, to say nothing about the ongoing divisions among the Shiites. Today, the scene is recurring, and things are escalating. The pro-Iranian militias’ mistake of targeting Kadhimi brought him back to the fore, and he has become a strong player inside and outside Iraq. It seems that he will be the man of the hour and a political figure who will play a decisive role in shaping the new Iraq during a juncture in Iraqi history that reminds us of the Rafik Hariri era in Lebanon.

Iranian interference in other states’ affairs is aimed at dominating these countries by supporting forces, agents, and movements financially, militarily and in the media. Tehran continues to take this sectarian path that is repudiated by the majority of Iraqis and Lebanese. These peoples want to live in dignity, return to the Arab embrace, and get rid of all the figures and symbols of the political class loyal to Tehran.

Iran is beginning to lose the space it has made for itself in these two countries, with its presence and popularity declining. The page will inevitably be turned, and a new page will be opened in Iraq and Lebanon. The people have made their decision, and their patriotism has gained strength, overwhelming all other sentiments regardless of the calls echoed by the hopeless and the fifth column. At the end of the day, what’s right is right. That should leave us optimistic about the prospect of a bright future despite the obscurity of the scene and the darkness of the night.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks