How Iran’s Malicious Proxies Are Tearing A Nation Apart

How Iran’s Malicious Proxies Are Tearing A Nation Apart

The Iraqi Hashd al-Shaabi militia is playing a divide and conquer game that only serves Iran’s agenda. (AFP file photo)

The Iranian-backed paramilitary Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi has adopted a “divide and rule strategy” in its effort to dominate Iraq’s ethnically diverse Nineveh province.

A new report by the International Crisis Group also warns that the activities of these Iranian proxies risk sparking a regional war with Turkey, with tensions further heightened by Ankara’s proposed new military incursion into northern Syria.

As Daesh was driven out of this ethnically complex region between 2015 and 2017, the Hashd supported a confusing array of local militias, pushing civil tensions to breaking point. Every local sect and ethnicity imaginable – Yazidi, Shabak, Shia Turkmen, Sunni, Kurdish, and Christian Assyrian and Chaldean – now has its own Hashd faction, which in turn has preyed on local populations while vying to monopolize the local economy. and cross-border. contraband trade.

A broader regionalized power game is at work. Turkey has sought to cultivate ties with the Kurdish Democratic Party in Iraqi Kurdistan, while trying to eliminate the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, and its Iraqi affiliate, the Sinjar Resistance Units. The Hashd even put segments of the latter on their payroll as the “80th Battalion,” while Hashd factions staged provocative attacks on Turkish military positions in northern Iraq. Meanwhile, Turkey has murdered Kurdish Hashd-affiliated personnel, including commanders of the 80th Battalion.

It is a deeply traumatized region. When Daesh unleashed its genocidal campaign in 2014, minorities suffered the worst fates imaginable. Yazidi men were massacred en masse. Women have been captured for sexual slavery and brutal servitude. While enslaved women were sometimes reintegrated into communities, they were often forced to make the inconceivable decision to leave behind children from forced marriages with Daesh members.

Such devastating traumas take generations to ameliorate. Whenever I meet Yazidi activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad, I am struck by her oceanic, sad eyes, which speak eloquently of unimaginable, life-changing experiences that will cling to her forever.

Many communities in Nineveh initially saw the Hashd as their saviors for their role in liberating these territories. However, citizens have come to bitterly recognize that the Hashd’s divide and conquer agenda only serves Iran. Likewise, Shia communities in southern Iraq have increasingly turned against this predatory movement, which exists under the guise of defending them.

Iran manipulates sectarian identities for its own ends: ‘Christian’ militias hold ceremonies to worship Shia imams, while Shia populations are gathered to vote for pro-Hashd politicians to occupy parliamentary seats reserved for minority groups . An Iranian-funded school in the Christian neighborhood of Bartella was even named after Imam Khomeini! The mind wonders about the ideological agendas with which these institutions indoctrinate children.

There has been a fierce rivalry between small minority militias to be included in the Hashd payroll, funded at the expense of the Iraqi state. This creates a dangerous dynamic in which these groups struggle to outdo each other in advancing Iran’s aggressively expansive agenda. Hashd-aligned militias have raked in millions of dollars from illegal checkpoints and extort “protection money” from local businesses.

Impoverished Christian and Yazidi farming communities have been dispossessed of their land. Mosul is teeming with Hashd economic offices, as rival factions vie to dominate every conceivable sector of the local economy and monopolize reconstruction funds.

To counter this blatant corruption, successive Iraqi prime ministers have sought to displace the most culpable militias. However, these factions defied orders from Baghdad, gathered supporters to sow chaos, and secured high-profile supporters such as the Iranian ambassador and leading Hashd figures to champion their cause.

Efforts by Hashd factions to entrench themselves permanently at the local level across Iraq come at a time when these groups are fighting tooth and nail to mitigate the consequences of their landslide electoral defeats in October last year. These parasitic entities believe that they cannot be ousted if they dominate all levels of society. They hope to coerce rival parties into giving them cabinet seats and allowing them to maintain powerful positions throughout Iraq’s system of government.

When Hezbollah uses the means to drag Lebanon into war with Israel, or the Hashd controls large segments of the Iraqi economy, there is little hope for the survival of these states as cohesive nations.

Baria Alamuddin

As with Hezbollah in Lebanon, these groups’ control of key border points allows them to exert a stranglehold on Iraq’s system of government, while dominating regional trade and preventing customs revenue from reaching Iraqi finances. ‘State.

The wider region is awash with weapons, drugs, laundered funds and counterfeit goods peddled by these militants. Assad’s mafiosi, Hezbollah and Hashd collude to drown Jordan, the GCC and other Arab states in tons of narcotics. What the world fails to recognize is that these are not scattered and diverse activities, but part of a larger strategy by Iran and its proxies to dominate the region and cause rival states to dissolve into civil chaos.

Arab States must therefore react at the highest level with a holistic and ambitious strategy to counter this regional threat. They must ensure that election results in Iraq and Lebanon are respected and that government institutions have the capacity to extend their powers across these nations, so that out-of-control paramilitary factions cannot dominate the resulting vacuum. . The Iraqi government must repress the cultural, social and ideological brainwashing programs perpetrated by these paramilitary forces.

Nations cannot be truly sovereign if they do not monopolize the use of force throughout their territory. When Hezbollah uses the means to drag Lebanon into war with Israel, or the Hashd controls large segments of the Iraqi economy, there is little hope for the survival of these states as cohesive nations.

Furious local tensions between Nineveh’s complex patchwork of ethnicities and sects are being replicated nationally as Tehran pits Sunni, Kurdish and Shia factions against each other.

It does not bother Iran that the tearing of the Iraqi social fabric and the weakening of its democratic institutions will surely at some point plunge the country back into civil war and state collapse.

Indeed, Tehran may even be banking on this ruinous outcome, convinced that such chaos could be exploited to enable its proxies to permanently erase the Arab identity of these shattered states and establish its supremacy over the rubble that subsist.

Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is the editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed many heads of state.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

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