Since the start of the first Arab Spring in 2011, Iran, and its political regime, has not been far from anticipating what is happening in its near and far neighborhood, welcoming the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt as an "Islamic wakefulness", but when the revolution reached the homes of its Syrian partner, it found a serious threat of its security and its regional and international situation, and took the initiative to engage with all its forces in confronting it.
This year, the Arab world is living a second version of the "Arab Spring", which has witnessed widespread protests from Algeria to Sudan and then Iraq and Lebanon, and so far, these protests have survived the bumps of the previous wave, they do not have an "Islamic" character, and excluded the presence of political parties, currents and religious references of all kinds.
Unlike the first edition of the Arab Spring, Tehran does not welcome the current protests demanding fundamental reforms in Lebanon and Iraq, where Tehran has spent decades investing political and economic capital in them which are crucial in Iran's geopolitical space.
In late October, as demonstrations erupted in both countries, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that "America and the Western intelligence services today, more than others in the world, and funded by reactionary states in the region, are provoking chaos and unrest. Which is the worst hostility and the most dangerous hatred against a people". In his speech he gave an "advice to those who are concerned about the interest of Iraq and Lebanon" to make addressing the "security turmoil" a priority for them, he continued: "The people of these two countries have legitimate demands, but they must know that these demands are possible and verifiable under the legal mechanisms ".
The Iranian media launched a strong attack against the demonstrations, describing the demonstrators as "followers of the West." Hussein Shariatmadari, the editor of the conservative Kayhan newspaper and Khamenei's adviser, called the Iraqis and Lebanese to seize the US and Saudi embassies. Hamid Reza Zandi, an Iranian television commentator, called for "burning American and Saudi flags", as a big "No" to the uprisings to clarify its identity, while Tehran's Khatib, Mohammad Ali Mohadi Kermani, accused the protesters of being "English Shiites".
Iran's geopolitical and regional interests in Iraq
Geopolitical factors play a major role in Iran's interests in Iraq, whether security, economic, or even religious factors, considering the presence of Shiite (Arab) in which a major competitor to its Iranian counterpart, and the struggle of the Iranian city of Qom with its Iraqi counterpart, Karbala, has been ongoing since the conversion of Safavid Iran to Shiite as the first manifestation of the Shiite state in Islamic history outside the Arab world.
Iran (the state before the revolution) is working hard to prevent the return of a strong Iraq, which poses a threat in all respects, after eight years of war in the 1980s and then US intervention in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Iran was the biggest winner of the fall of the Baathist regime. Realizing that Baghdad had lost its position as a(Sunni and Arab) capital and no longer posed a military threat, Tehran had to ensure that Iraq remained within its influence, and in its endless problems, through its friends in the Iraqi Authority, in any form, through direct intervention, or through proxies, the emergence of influential Shiite groups in the street as tools changed the context of control of the Iraqi space (government as popular), through the use of these effective tools in the country, and transformed its emerging democracy into rival party and political conflicts that have decimated the country and the people, and produced stunning corruption in a country rich in everything There is no doubt here that what happened in Iraq is not a purely Iranian product. There are many forces that play in the scene of the Iraqi authority (decentralized only by name), led by the American and Gulf powers, each one of them with its supporters and followers.
On the other hand, Iraq, for Tehran, played the role of insulator between it and Saudi Arabia, its new regional competitor in the Arab domain, and the main barrier to export the revolution to the countries of the Arab world (Sudan, Egypt and Yemen), and in the case of a government loyal to Saudi Arabia (this trend is led by Muqtada al-Sadr), the balance of regional power in favor of Riyadh could be largely inclined.
The stability of the central (Shiite) Iraqi government became a major target in the years when the terrorist organization "Da'esh" "ISIS" emerged, and under the leadership of General Soleimani, large-scale Shiite recruitment emerged that produced the Popular Mobilization Organization, which fought "Daesh" in many regions in the east and south of Iraq. With the participation of Iranian aircraft in the bombing of "ISIS" sites around the city of Mosul, Karbala and other sites. With the end of the threat of "ISIS", Iraqis regained their attention to what is happening in their country at the hands of the ruling class, the amount and amount of corruption in the country is too much to bear, where Iraq tops the list of the most corrupt countries in the world, and excessive Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs has exceeded all limits.
Iran is a priority in the Iraqi protests
It may be the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime that millions of Iraqis have come out openly and without fear against the clear Iranian control over the government and life in Iraq, even before Khamenei's words, which, after a long absence, provoked genuine national anger in which Iraqis transcended their sect. The protests were not confined to "some Sunnis, Baathists and ISIS," as the Iranian media reported. The Shiite authority on Friday sermons declared "rejection of foreign interference, especially the regional one, in the affairs of Iraqis" and called for "letting the people decide their own destiny." Inviting people to go out to change the regime, in response to Khamenei's statements, which has strengthened the demonstrations and their spillover to all areas, and unlike the Lebanese - so far - Iraqis openly burned Iranian flags, chanting "Iran out, out", tore Khamenei's posters and pictures and attacked the headquarters of Shiite militia –backed by Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Protests across the Shiite cities south of Karbala, Mosul and Baghdad have revealed that the Iranian regime's policies implemented by the Iraqi political class, led by the successive prime ministers, have failed to achieve any developmental and economic policies, as it is now rare to find "Iraqi goods". Even the famous dates turned into a second degree, after the invasion of all kinds of products of Tehran to the Iraqi market, coupled with the lack of provision of basic services, such as electricity and water, in the state with oil reserves put it fourthly in the world.
It has become clear to the Iraqis that Iran's main objective is political and economic control away from all "resistance" propaganda and the Shiite religious factor. Of course, what Iraq has achieved is not only the result of the policies of Tehran's agents. It has had the effect of destroying the infrastructure since the US invasion of Iraq until today on the situation in the country.
This is happening at a time when the Iraqi leaders have sought to secure billions of dollars to save Tehran from US sanctions and create a parallel economy (smuggling) that enables it to maintain its political and social regime, and not surprising, therefore, the great Iranian fear of the fall of the corrupt Iraqi political class, and replace it by a national class.
The attempt of some political class to break out of the Iranian sphere, as Muqtada al-Sadr did through an agreement with the leader of the "Alliance of Conquest", Hadi al-Amiri, about the dismissal of Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi, and find an alternative, as the two largest blocs in parliament, all that ended with the arrival of General "Qasem Soleimani "The commander of the Qods Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Baghdad, and meetings with political leaders to force them to adhere to the government of Abdul Mahdi and refused to resign, to go further, when he told the leader of the" Alliance of Conquest "to refuse to agree with the leader of the Sadrist movement, so Ameri got out speaking "He does not have the authority in Abdul Mahdi resignation". Hours after accepting to negotiate with al-Sadr, some sources said that the other one stopped for the dismissal of Mahdi after his meeting with Suleimani and traveling with him on the same plane to the city of Qom.
According to the media, Soleimani asked the Iraqi government to "suppress the demonstrations," which was done by the Iraqi security forces in indirect cooperation with government-allied militias linked to Iran, causing more than 100 deaths and more than 6,000 wounded since the start of the protests, according to a statement from government accused "unidentified snipers" of firing the demonstrators and the security forces alike, while human rights organizations (Amnesti) pointed to the participation of security forces in suppressing the demonstrations.
The government set up a high-level ministerial committee to investigate the deaths of protesters, whose report was met with widespread public and official condemnation, which bloggers and political parties considered it "insufficient", calling for a public trial against all those involved, which was rejected by the prime minister (Iran's first man, with US backing)who defended the report considering it "transparent".
Given the general situation of the Iraqi political regime, the process of overthrowing Abdul Mahdi's government must pass through parliament. The call for early parliamentary elections is the way to achieve this goal. This is clearly rejected by Iran through its proxies, which has made the government and its security forces deal with the protesters in the extreme violence, and it is clear that Tehran, which invested a lot of money and effort in Iraq, and turned it into a political and economic dependence will not allow the demonstrators to lose a key strategic position in its policies Moreover, it is its largest open neighbor in the Arab space where its most important conflicts are taking place, both as a State and as a revolution that has spent almost half a century trying to sow its seeds in the Middle East, not just in Iraq.
From its inception in the early 1980s, Hezbollah has been one of Iran's most important strategic assets in the Middle East, supporting the Islamic Republic in strengthening its geopolitical position vis-à-vis its regional adversaries (and friends), led by Israel and Saudi Arabia, the United States and the West in general. They clearly demonstrated in the July 2006 War, as they all appeared in their involvement in the Syrian crisis since 2011, in which the most important thing for Iran was not to overthrow the regime which is loyal to it and thereby lose a major strategic paper in the Middle East, as well as to not interrupt the supply lines of Hezbollah's military trans-Syrian , Where it can use the threat paper to Israel in any regional or international situation, which has been demonstrated several times by threatening Israel with "annihilation" If Iran is attacked by the West.
The popular non-sectarian protests in Lebanon have pushed Hezbollah into a critical situation, dealing with it in its public image with the same Iranian logic, which sees the protests as an "international and regional manufactured plot" and that the movement is linked to embassies of well-known countries (Saudi Arabia and the United States) without denying the right of "protesters' demands", warning that the demands of overthrowing the current regime would create "a vacuum that would lead to collapse and chaos." Therefore, the political regime must be reformed from within, by approving the reformist Saad Hariri paper, which is mostly in response to the World Bank's requests to float the crisis, by reducing the value of the Lebanese pound, which happened after the disappearance of the dollar from daily transactions and banking (the dollar rose nearly 200 pounds on the black market).
Hariri's resignation did not weaken the protests in Lebanon, and the attempt by a number of Hezbollah supporters to dismantle the protest sites in Beirut led to growing anger against it in the protesting street, but without this protest moving further, the protests do not oppose Hezbollah's status in its current situation, except to the extent that it is an "emergency component" in the Lebanese political class, did not take root in the ruling corruption, especially in light of the protesters' demands overlapping with the old positions of Hezbollah against corruption and the regime itself, including its refusal to increase taxes on the Lebanese before preparing the 2019 budget, and acceptance of the party that its ministers and its deputies and any other person are ready for any summons Official.
The real predicament of Hezbollah, with calls for its disarming by the rebellious public, and such calls are not surprising, which had been present in several previous Lebanese protests (2017). It is evident in the current movement that the party is losing its popularity partly in Shiite and non-Shiite bases by refusing to join the movement, and in a certain division in the positions of some areas of the sect with regard to the movement, without forgetting that the position of the party weakened and eased the "Shiite" demonstrations in the street, and the party and the Lebanese regime relies on exhaustion of the movement in various ways, which is in the end in Iran's interest.
Hezbollah's advantage is that although there are ministers and deputies in parliament and government, it is not integrated into the heart of the Lebanese political regime, but has its own "state" that does not interfere in financial or economic financing with any of the Lebanese institutions of government. It has its own communications network and trade, this means that the protesters' influence will be focused on one point: disarming the party. This is a Lebanese controversy that is not believed to be taken by the protesters unless the party is engaged in trying to suppress the protest in violent ways, which is trying hard to stay away from it. The Lebanese army is confronting a group of close "thugs" who are close to the party, they wanted to disperse a protest in Beirut without any public intervention.
Iran, which has "advised" the Lebanese and Iraqis to reform from the heart of the political regime, understands that the issue of Hezbollah is not yet ripe, or that it has a solution that will come later someday. Therefore, it focuses on what is happening with its Iraqi neighbors to try not to get away with it control it, and most likely, given the balances of local Iraqi forces, the movement, apparently unsupported, will remain dependent on its presence in the street for its economic and political demands.
In his election campaign, President Trump adopted the hawkish speech in Washington, describing his opponents as "enabling the Iranian project to dominate the Middle East by approving the nuclear deal and cancelling the sanctions of Tehran." His 2015 decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal and an international economic blockade was responsive to Russia and the Israeli proposal that it should be removed and prevented from reaching the southern Syrian border. Since 2016, the campaign of "maximum pressure" has imposed sanctions in which Tehran has been totally prevented from exporting its oil (the mainstay of its economy), and this has encouraged the key elements of the regime (the Revolutionary Guards) to step up the war with Washington.
Perhaps all this and other reasons between Washington and Tehran, make the demonstrations of Iraq and then Lebanon (and then Tehran) a source of American interest, without the public or apparent intervention in the light of the popular rejection (clear Iraqi) of any of the products of the previous phase, including of course, what is happening in Lebanon is an extension of what is happening in Iraq with regard to Hezbollah, which, in turn, has been subjected to numerous sanctions for allegedly financing terrorism.
Fire arrives in Tehran
In apparent fear of protests reaching their cities, Iranian conservatives have described the uprisings as "Fitna," a term used during the "Green" anti-government demonstrations in 2009 and 2017. Others have accused the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia of fomenting "sedition" to weaken and divide Iran and its regional allies.
As the protests reach Iran, if they continue, the pressure will ease on the Iraqi protests. In Lebanon, Hezbollah will try hard not to confront the protesters, and the protesters as a whole will reshape the new Middle East landscape, within a new balance map that Tehran may not have a major role, with the formation of a new axis that is gradually coming out publicly, namely the Saudi-Israeli-American axis. It is true that the Islamic Revolution, in the words of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Khomeini, "was not about the price of watermelon". But Iran, under the long - term US economic blockade, has faced problems similar to that fuel the protests in Iraq and Lebanon, economic, social and service . )In 1979, the price of a liter of gasoline was 3 riyals, today is 40,000 riyals), and by pushing its forces in both countries to intervene, it seeks to maintain its influence in its near space. This is one of the dilemmas of the Iranian situation in the Iraqi and Lebanese revolutions. .
An important aspect of the Arab protests was the export policy of the revolution, which was long pursued and claimed by Iranian rule. It was one of the tools of its incursion into the Middle East and in its neighborhood. It has shown the state's ingestion of the revolution and that Iran, today and before, uses the same logic of totalitarian regimes to justify the suppression of revolutions, which are always "conspiracies" against it and against similar regimes, without eliminating the fact that others are not present in the arena and working for their own interests. The conflict of regional (Turkish, Israeli and Iranian) and international projects in the region is the basis which the new revolutions are trying to get rid of. The absence of true national democracy and developmental projects, the conflict oin these areas will continue.
1. Iranian fighter planes bombing ISIS in Iraq:
2. Iraq tops the list of the most corrupt countries in the world:
3. Khamenei gives advice to the "keen" in Lebanon and Iraq amid demonstrations of the two countries: