Ali Hashem writes: For years, Iraqi Shiites have been immune to the Iranian copy of Shiism; the chemistry didn’t work. Iranians strained for years during the post-Saddam Hussein era to establish a solid footprint, but they always failed to reach their goals due to differences in mentality, ethnicity, the approach to political Islam and the de facto hostility that ruled the relationship between both nations. That is not to say Iran wasn’t influential, but that it failed all this time to win the hearts and minds of its fellow Shiites.
Iran backed and financed several groups in Iraq, and was the main ally of the former prime minister and now vice president, Nouri al-Maliki, and his Dawa party. The cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was close to them, but not close enough to be their man in Iraq; he had his own way of thinking that agrees and deviates according to his interests. The same applies to many other prominent Iraqi leaders. That’s why there was no Iraqi copy of Lebanon’s Hezbollah. This was until the Islamic State (IS) led by self-titled Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi invaded Mosul and reached only tens of meters from the shrine of the two Askari Imams in Samarra, north of Baghdad.
“That was another day,” an Iranian official with deep understanding of what’s going on in Iraq told me. “Hajj Qasem Soleimani [Quds Force commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and his men showed that Iran cares for Iraq as a nation. Our iconic commander himself went there and fought with the Iraqi volunteers who celebrated his presence,” the official said. “If it wasn’t for Hajj Qasem and his men, Daesh [IS] [would be] today destroying the shrines of the household of the Prophet Muhammad, and that’s why today is another day.” [Continue reading…]