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Iran Grabs Kirkurk; Claims ‘Victory Over the US’

A member of the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militia in Iraq
A member of the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militia in Iraq (Photo: ACHILLEAS ZAVALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

 

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization celebrated the Iraqi take-over of the city of Kirkuk from the Kurds, calling it a victory over the U.S. and Israel, Rudaw.net reported.

“Our victory in Kirkuk is a victory over the U.S. and Israel and an answer to Trump’s threats to Iran,” said Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, deputy head of Hezbollah’s executive council and the lead Hezbollah official in Lebanon.

Qaouk was right

The U.S.’s emphatic desertion of the Kurds – before, during and after their historic referendum calling for independence – paved the way for an Iranian takeover of the region, in continuation of its push to create a Shiite crescent in the Middle East and dominate the region.

Never mind that the takeover of Kirkurk was made infinitely easier by the Kurdish Talabani faction, representing the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), through a deal made with Iran. In exchange for a cut in the profits from Kirkurk’s strategic oil fields and a role in running the civil government of the city, the Kurdish PUK forces rolled over and played dead, allowing Iraqi forces to take over the city without a fight.

Who are these “Iraqi” forces?

The takeover of Kirkurk – a disputed city which had been under Kurdish control since the summer of 2014 when ISIS rolled into Mosul and the surrounding areas and the Iraqi army dropped its guns and ran – was accomplished not only by Iraqi forces but by the Hashd al-Shaabi, Iranian-backed Shiite militias that officially joined the Iraqi forces last year.

The Hashd militias are “advised” by none other than the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, who was reportedly seen on the ground in Kirkuk during the takeover.

It seems the invasion of Kirkuk was Iran’s answer to U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would not certify the Iranian nuclear deal and instead had directed the Treasury Department to impose new sanction on Iran.

Unfortunately, such measures come with very few teeth

The damage the nuclear deal has already done – i.e., failing to stop Iran’s path to a nuclear weapons and thwarting its terrorist activities – is long accomplished, as confirmed recently by the U.S.’s own CIA director Mike Pompeo, speaking in the name of his boss, the president.

And without American backing for the Kurdish bid for independence, there is no force stopping Iran from regional hegemony in the Middle East.

Although Pompeo said that the president would push back against “both Iran … and the Syrian regime,” he gave no specifics.

Iran, through Hezbollah and its Shiite militias is at Israel’s doorsteps on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights after Trump effectively handed Syria over to Russia and Iran last summer.

If Pompeo is referring to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip October 22 to Saudi Arabia to promote ties between Saudi Arabia and Iraq as a way of countering Iran, Iraq is playing America for the fool.

While Iraq will be happy to reap any financial benefit the Americans (and Saudis) are offering, it seems they have already decided with whom to hedge their bets.

Historic ties

In a meeting also on Oct. 22 with a senior advisor to Iran’s vice president, Iraqi Vice President Fuad Masum spoke about the “depth of the historical ties between Tehran and Baghdad, pointing out Iraq’s interest in developing these ties in all fields in a way that serves the interests of the two neighboring peoples.”

Masum specifically mentioned “the importance of coordination between the two countries in the field of protecting oil prices in world markets for the benefit of the oil exporting countries, in indication to the need to support the OPEC,” according to a statement issued by his office.

For Iran’s part, the statement noted that Iran was eager to develop relations with Iraq in every aspect of the country, “and continue to help the Iraqi people in its war against terrorism” (read: fight the Iraqi’s battle with the Kurds to maintain Iraq’s strategic assets).

Iran also offered “altruistically” to help Iraq in the reconstruction of its war-torn country. “Iran has good experience in agriculture and industry fields and we are keen to use these experiences,” according to the advisor.

So Iraq is lost

All this means that Iran has virtually taken over Iraq. The portions of the country that still maintain a semblance of independence are fast becoming obliged to Iran, a dependency set up perfectly and skillfully by the Iranians.

Trump’s pledge to get out of foreign wars and put “America first” might have resounded with a foreign-war weary electorate during the campaign, but the long-term consequences of creating a vacuum that Iran is only all too happy and able to fill will be felt not only financially in the U.S. but also in the fight against terror which will come back to haunt the homeland.

 

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MS
Meira Svirsky
Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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