After US troops overthrew the Saddam Hussain regime in 2003, the George W. Bush administration dismantled the state institutions and dissolved the Iraqi army, police and security services, leaving the door open for chaos and anarchy.
This resulted in a political vacuum, and there were no other regional powers interested in Iraq except Iran, which immediately moved to fill the void and rearrange the country’s politics to suit its interests. It poured massive funds and a limitless arsenal to aid its military arms and militias.
Since then Tehran penetrated every aspect of the state, wreaking havoc on the Iraqi social fabric and stoking sectarian violence among all segments of the Iraqi people.
Washington and Tehran have a limited understanding of Iraqi society, and this has led to terrible consequences. It paved the way for an unprecedented animosity against Tehran throughout much of the Arab region, especially when Iran’s influence mounted allowing to nurture ambitions of extending its domination over other Arab countries.
Tehran had implemented its malicious designs to cement its presence in Iraq and hijack the political decision-making. Over the past 16 years, Iran has dealt with Iraq as a failed state, allowing its militia units to grow. Baghdad remained helpless as it had no other option except to follow the Iranian orders.
Motivated by revenge, Tehran spread havoc across Iraq dragging it into a sectarian civil war. According to Unesco reports, Iraq was the only Middle Eastern country that succeeded in eradicating illiteracy. At present, Iraq tops the list of countries with the highest rates of illiteracy. The alarming state stemmed from the policies pursued by the Iranian leaders.
Iran could have been prevented from occupying the vacuum caused by the US invasion of Iraq if the Arabs were not in a state of shock after the fall of Baghdad. Before the Arabs recovered, Iran was vigilant enough to jump in and executed its malicious agenda. Some Arabs, who suffered under the former Iraqi regime, preferred to wait until the situation cleared up. Their laidback approach proved costly for Iraq.
So the Arabs cannot escape the blame for the grave consequences and the deteriorating situation in Iraq that were a direct result of the Iranian influence. Now 16 years after the US invasion and the fall of Baghdad, the Arabs are doing their best to bring Iraq back to the Arab fold and stop Iran’s dangerous expansionist designs in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
This was apparent in the speech by Marzouq Al Ganem, speaker of the Kuwait National Assembly at the conference for the parliaments of Iraq’s neighbouring countries held in Baghdad recently. Addressing the conference, Al Ganem said: “We want a pure Arab, strong, secure, and stable Iraq. We support a prosperous and developed Iraq that enjoys growth and prosperity.”
It echoed the essence of other speeches delivered by the heads of delegations representing Iraq’s neighbours. The speeches spelt out the neighbours’ intents and expectations for the future of Iraq, a state that is rising from the ashes of terrorism after the defeat of Daesh.
As it embarks on a path to development, Iraq must eliminate financial and administrative corruption; it is ranked among the top 10 most corrupt countries in the world. Although it is a very difficult task, it is absolutely necessary if Iraq is to rise again and regain its strength and engage in genuine and serious development.
Road to recovery
There should not be any place for political, sectarian quotas if Iraq is serious about recovery and reconstruction.
This is what the Arabs want, if their efforts are any indication. Several agreements covering many sectors, including investment in energy, were signed between Baghdad and Riyadh during the recent visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.
Iraq has suffered greatly since 2003. Finally, the Gulf nations have realised that Iraq’s reconstruction requires a concerted effort, and it should include the Iraqi people and its various groups. Other Arab states should build on the GCC efforts and extend a helping hand to Iraq.
Mohammad Hassan Al Harbi is a renowned columnist and author whose writings cover various fields ranging from media studies to education.