“Out, out, Iran!” This was what Iraqis were heard shouting as they burnt down the Iranian consulate in Najaf on Wednesday night.
Antigovernment protesters who have been on the streets since early October have overwhelmingly rejected Iran’s political presence in the country.
The “corrupt” government they are protesting against is intrinsically linked and backed by Iran.
The arson attack struck a symbolic blow against Iran, which attaches great importance to its outposts in the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq.
It sends the message to Tehran that the Iraqi people are putting their country’s interests first, before that of Iran’s, despite the links between the two countries.
Demonstrators in Najaf are almost all Shiites, and Shiite religious authorities there have encouraged the protests, although they have insisted that they remain peaceful.
The attack on the consulate comes amid widespread antigovernment protests that began nearly two months ago in Baghdad.
The demonstrations started as a demand for jobs and better government services but have broadened into a call for a change in government, which demonstrators see as corrupt and beholden to Iran.
Many of the political parties who dominate the Iraq’s Parliament have ties to Iran.
For far too long, Tehran’s meddling has gone unpunished, but it is time that it is held accountable for its destructive behaviour. Recently Saudi King Salman spoke out about Iran’s aggressive policies, not only in Iraq, but in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen
In addition to having allies in Iraq’s government, Iran has ties to several militias, known as popular mobilisation forces.
These militias have recently been incorporated into Iraq’s security forces, but there are fears that Iran might exert pressure on them to act in its interests.
This behaviour is not taking place in Iraq alone. Throughout the region Iran has backed proxy militias with the intent of carrying out policies which aid Iran’s agenda.
For far too long, Tehran’s meddling has gone unpunished, but it is time that it is held accountable for its destructive behaviour. Recently Saudi King Salman spoke out about Iran’s aggressive policies, not only in Iraq, but in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
Iran has also been behind attacks on commercial vessels in the Gulf as well as Saudi Aramco’s oil facilities.
Now more than ever, Iran needs to re-evaluate its destructive behaviour at a time when its economy is in disarray due to international sanctions and now faces an open revolt by its own people.
Its grip in the region is also being weakened with antigovernment protests sweeping Lebanon and Iraq (both countries where it holds considerable sway) as well as domestic protests in Iran itself. Tehran needs to abandon its long-standing practice of regional meddling.