A day after anti-government protests in Iraq in early October, Iranian general Qasem Soleimani flew to Baghdad late at night.
Protests in Iraq and Lebanon threaten the influence of Iran and its militias
Suleimani boarded a helicopter to reach the heavily fortified Green Zone in the centre of the Iraqi capital. Where a group of senior security officials surprised him by chairing a meeting to replace the prime minister.
The arrival of Soleimani
The commander of the Iranian Qods Force and in charge of its militias in the region. It shows Tehran’s concern over the protests. In which the throats of the participants shouted condemnation of Iran’s interference.
Tehran fears loss
Hisham Al-Hashimi, an Iraqi security analyst said:
Iran fears these demonstrations because it has made the biggest gains in government and parliament. Through the parties close to them, since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“Iran does not want to lose these gains, so it has tried to work through its parties to contain the protests in a very Iranian way.”
In southern Iraq, protesters attacked and burned the offices of Iranian-backed political parties and militias.
Poor Iraqis, in a country that is OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, complain of building powerful militias linked to Iran with economic empires, controlling government reconstruction projects and engaging in illicit trade.
“All parties and factions are corrupt, and these factions are tied to Iran because they use them to try to export their religious system to Iraq,” said Ali al-Iraqi, a 35-year-old protester in the southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah.
“The Iraqis are rejecting this, and perhaps that is the reason for an uprising against Iran.”
“The protests in Iraq and Lebanon are mainly about local politics and a corrupt political class that they have failed to implement,” said Ayham Kamel, head of the Middle East and North Africa division at Eurasia Group.
Iran’s proxy model failed
The protests show the failure of the proxy model where Iran can expand its influence but its allies are unable to govern successfully.
Iran has been largely silent on the protests while expressing support for both governments, as well as for Hezbollah militias.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi expressed Tehran’s “deep regret” over the deaths of dozens of protesters in Iraq.
“We are confident that the Iraqi government, the nation and the clerics will be able to overcome these problems,” he said.