Kurdish forces
Kurdish forcesReuters

An analysis of the facts and indicators suggests that what we feared is already being realized.

The Iranian regime is solving its internal crisis abroad by fabricating an imaginary “conflict” in which it tries to divert the attention of an angry and protesting Iranian people and to impress upon them that there is an external danger that requires a national mobilization; whoever violates this “mobilization” will face charges of treason, not of objection or protest against the regime.

One of the most striking indicators of Iranian thinking is the message sent by Iran’s permanent mission to the UN. In it, Iran called on the UN Security Council and demanded that Iraq comply with agreements to close and disarm Kurdish party headquarters in Kurdistan.

The letter threatened that “Iran has no choice but to use its fundamental right of self-defense under international law to defend its national security.” This letter reveals the Iranian regime’s intentions.

It reflects a desire to create a cover, which Tehran considers legitimate, for a broader military intervention in Iraq, ostensibly to pursue Kurdish militias opposed to the Iranian regime; ongoing negotiations with the Iraqi government have yielded no progress on this front.

Iran claims that Kurdish groups opposing it in Iraq are smuggling large quantities of weapons into Iran, that they are conducting terrorist operations and causing human and material damage that destabilizes the country, and that it has provided the Iraqi government with reliable information and “indisputable evidence” about the use of Iraqi territory against Iran.

There is no doubt that the intentions of the Iranian regime behind this message are not good. It plans to expand its military intervention into Iraqi territory. It should be noted that the mullahs treat Iraq, both as a country and as a government, with a great deal of arrogance.

Everyone knows the reality of Iraq, which has just emerged from a crisis of political conflict over government formation.

Everyone is also aware of the degree of enormous Iranian influence inside Iraq, influence that makes Iraq an oasis where Iranian militias roam, against the limited ability of Iraq’s state institutions to impose their sovereignty, to expand their influence and to limit Iranian interference in this brotherly country.

What is happening is that Iraq is realistically asking for a period of time to address the causes of Iranian anxiety. It is its right to do so. The Iraqi delegation in the bilateral talks has committed to a timeline for completing the disarmament of the anti-Iranian militias.

I don’t think Iraq is interested in the militias carrying weapons on its territory. But it is a matter of time and operational capacity to implement the political will represented by the Iraqi government. Iran’s reference to international law on self-defense is surprising.

Iran itself does not adhere to international law in its relations with all neighboring countries and with Iraq in particular. Tehran appeals to international law when it wants to fabricate, or rather expand, a crisis by which it wants to divert attention both at home and abroad from what is happening in the streets and cities of Iran.

The Iranian regime says it will resort to using the right of self-defense in international law. But what legal cover has it used as Iran has continued to launch missile and drone strikes in recent years and months? Some of these strikes have targeted the positions of Kurdish parties opposed to the Iranian regime in Iraqi Kurdistan, a gross violation of Iraq’s national sovereignty.

Others have targeted bases and facilities belonging to an Iraqi ally, such as the US. The Iraqi government seems to be in a difficult situation, given the constant Iranian and Turkish attacks and violations on the Iraqi border. There is no talking about Iraqi sovereignty, grossly violated day and night.

These violations take place in an internal Iraqi environment that is known for complexity, entanglement and extensive Iranian influence. The Iranian regime feels that this is an opportune moment to realize some of the goals of its regional expansionist project. One of them is the elimination of Kurdish opposition party camps in Iraq, an old/new goal.

However, the current international environment may allow it to materialize. Domestic conditions and pressure from the Iranian regime are accelerating it. But the real disaster is that this Iranian approach puts Iraq on the cusp of a new phase of chaos and torpedoes this Arab country’s fragile political stability.

The Iranian regime’s regional scheme must be put to a halt. The major international powers bear great, if not total, responsibility for the situation in the region, especially because of the escalation of the Iranian threat, growing since 2015 on the back of the nuclear deal, which gave Tehran the green light to implement its regional expansion plan in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, etc.

Everyone knows in advance that the Arab regional order is in a sorry state. Iraq hopes that active and influential Arab powers will play their part in containing and deterring Iran from committing fresh mischief in Iraq by expanding its military operations menacing its security and stability.

Dr. Salem AlKetbiis a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate