Dr. Salem Al Ketbi
Dr. Salem Al KetbiCourtesy

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reportedly said in a meeting in Tehran with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia Al Sudani that Iran is “ready to protect Iraq from those who want to destabilize its security and stability.” Iraq is “the best Arab country in the region in terms of its natural and human resources as well as its cultural, historical and civilizational heritage,” he said.

This statement is in itself striking. Iraq does not need Khamenei to promise protection from those who want to destabilize its security and stability. Instead, it wants the Iranian leader to pledge to prevent his country’s hand from harming Iraq and violating its national sovereignty.

Iraq certainly does not want its neighbors to protect it. It just wants them to keep their hands off it; they must adhere to the principle of good neighborliness. These facts are not unfamiliar to the Supreme Leader and his fellow mullahs.

But the Iranian regime is addicted to mendacity and deception until it believes itself. It believes that its lies can be bought by others. Everyone knows who is tampering with Iraq’s security and undermining its security and stability.

Who has an interest in keeping this great Arab country intact without the possibility of regaining its economic strength and its ability to develop? Its strategic influence is also at stake. Indeed, Iraq, along with Yemen, is the regional actor most affected by Iran’s expansionist hegemonic policy.

This former Arab country is paying a high price for Iranian sectarian expansion in the Iraqi body, and the signs and indicators of this expansion are not a secret to anyone, be it in the sectarian political conflict, be it between Shiites and Sunnis, or between the main Shiite parties in the country.

The Iranian position, which seeks to suggest support for Iraqi stability, comes in the context of an invitation from Amir Saeed Irvani, Iran’s representative to the UN. In it, he calls on the UN Security Council to condemn Israel’s attacks on Syria as a violation of international law, humanitarian law and the UN Charter.

It is as if he thinkgs Israeli attacks in Syria are subject to a different international law than Iranian attacks and violations in Iraq. The principled lesson given by the Iranian envoy to the UN in defense of Syria is the same lesson that should be given to those in charge in Tehran.

Syria, which has been granted the right to defend itself in accordance with international conventions, is in a similar position to Iraq, whose sovereignty Iran has repeatedly violated.

Both major Arab countries suffer from the same problems and violations, but a very important point is that Israeli attacks in Syria target Iranian or pro-Iranian entities that Israel considers a threat. In other words, it is Iran that issues the threat and tries to deflect it by claiming to defend others.

Syria cannot by itself effectively keep the pro-Iranian militias out of its territory for very complex reasons, at least at the moment and under the current circumstances, while Iraq is committed to protecting its border with Iran and preventing any threat to Iran from Iraqi territory.

Security and stability in northern Syria can only be achieved by preserving its sovereignty, territorial integrity and respect for its statehood. Israel, while protecting itself, is in effect helping to preserve Syrian sovereignty from Iran. The right to the above also applies to Iraq and all other countries. Why doesn’t Iran itself begin to abide by these principles, take its hands out of Iraq and comply with what others are demanding?

This debate is a reminder that principles are indivisible; credibility is achieved by understanding, applying, and fully following them without violating them on one side and demanding them on the other.

But it is ironic when a regional party practices all kinds and practices of violating the sovereignty of others while granting itself the right of trusteeship, dressing itself in the garb of innocence and demanding the condemnation of practices that it itself practices in other countries. The Iraqi leadership is fully aware of the reality of what Iran is doing to their country.

But it is inevitable for them to continue to cooperate with the regime of the mullahs. It is the evil neighbor they need. The lesser evil for Iraq is to try to contain or at least limit and mitigate Iranian interference in its internal affairs.

The scenario appears very difficult and ultimately depends on the extent to which it is consistent with Iranian interests, goals, and plans. But Iraq’s interests require further attempts and efforts in this direction.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi is a UAE political analyst