The Iranian state-controlled Tasnim News Agency repeated Tehran’s false statements of “support for unity and calm in Iraq,” and its claims that it “does its utmost to maintain security in the region through collective efforts by all regional countries.” In fact, Iran has unilaterally supported the Maliki government in Iraq, in much the same way that it has done for the Assad regime in Syria. Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force Commander Qassem Suleimani is widely reported as being the most powerful man in Iraq during the current conflict.
Despite this, Iran’s denials of involvement have been ongoing. However, on Saturday Iranian state media acknowledged that an Iranian fighter pilot had been killed in Iraq. The Atlantic Sentinel points out that this confirmation of the presence of Iranian fighters comes in addition to earlier reports by the BBC that Iran had supplied fighter jets for Iraqi use.
With no reasonable doubts in mind about the presence of Iranian forces and extensive Iranian influence on Maliki’s Iraq, Derek Harvey and Michael Pregent comment on the situation in an editorial at CNN.com. They caution the US against letting the Iraqi prime minister hold onto power, saying, “If al-Maliki can survive the next few weeks in power, he will probably feel free to take harsh measures against the Sunni Arab community, as he believes that he is free of U.S. constraints for the first time.”
But the editorial goes on to warn that even getting rid of Maliki will not get rid of Iranian influence. Rather, Tehran is in a position to see that Maliki is replaced with someone equally aligned with Iranian interests, which include the continued marginalization of Sunnis, Kurds, and others. The authors conclude:
The reality is that Tehran will not permit the steps necessary for fundamental constitutional reforms, power-sharing and checks on the Prime Minister’s control over the security forces and intelligence apparatus. Tehran will see any such reforms as limits on Iranian influence, something the Iranians will not let happen.”
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