Iran builds new Eastern Front in Iraq
The urgent phone call Jordan's King Abdullah II put in to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday Jan. 5 dealt only marginally with stalled diplomacy with the Palestinians. The king pressed for answers on what Jerusalem and Amman can do to curb Iran's advancing domination of Iraq in the face of America's inaction.
Referring to Hizballah's role, Abdullah commented to Netanyahu: First Iran's missiles had you jammed from the north and the south, now Iran and Hizballah are cornering you from the east. The Americans are not lifting a finger to stop this happening."
The call, which came through the day before the Israeli prime minister met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for lunch at Sharm al Sheikh, elicited no real practical replies. Netanyahu confirmed that Israel still stood by the guarantee of support its armed forces and security services had granted the Hashemite Kingdom and its ruler for the past 60 years.
Both the king and the prime minister appreciated that words are not enough. Since both their military and strategic policies are synchronized with Washington, the total disintegration of American strategic positions in Baghdad Wednesday, Jan 5, was an alarming setback to both Jerusalem and Amman.
On that day, the anti-US radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, a close friend and ally of Hizballah's leader Hassan Nasrallah, came marching home from self-imposed exile in Iran, and the new Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi paid his first visit to Baghdad – both in full sight of 50,000 US troops.
Sadr was greeted by thousands of supporters on his return to his old stronghold in the holy city of Najef south of Baghdad three years after his armed militia was defeated in bloody revolts against US forces.
The two arrivals from Iran, the cleric and the diplomat, made it plain that Tehran has Iraq by the throat and plans to impose on Baghdad its regime structure, which rests on two focii, the political capital and the clergy. Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is already in Iran's pocket; he is beholden to the radical Sadr's support for his appointment. The same cleric – and therefore Iran – will control his fate – both by means of the 40-member Sadrist faction in parliament and the authority he wields from his seat in the religious city of Najef.
Tehran has also not neglected to carve out a position of influence in Baghdad for its Lebanese protégé, Hizballah, whose officers and instructors have been training the commanders of Sadr's powerful militia, the Mahdi Army, alongside Iranian instructors.
The two ultra-radical Shiite leaders, Sadr and Nasrallah, are now bound closer together than ever before in an adventure for bringing Iraq under pro-Iranian Shiite domination. Iraq's neighbors, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, could only shudder at the sight of the two black-turbaned Shiite extremists taking charge of Iraq on behalf of Revolutionary Iran against no opposition.
This pair and Maliki have taken out of the hands of Washington and Baghdad the decision on whether a reduced US force stays on in Iraq after the main force departs in 11 months' time. Moqtada Sadr has vowed to remove every last American from Iraqi soil and no one shows any sign of stopping him. US troops will be replaced by Shiite-dominated Iraqi forces, the Shiite militias commanded and funded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Qods Brigades and Hizballah militia detachments transferred from Lebanon.
Iran will in the coming months consolidate the Shiite takeover over Iraq. Hizballah will win a place in the sun and strategic depth after being squeezed between Syria, Israel and the sea.
After US troops exit Iraq, the Iranians will be able to deploy their missiles and Hizballah's rockets in the bases the Americans leave behind in Iraq and point them at Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.