Mashregh News, a conservative Iranian outlet, quotes Mozahem al-Havit, a spokesman of the Arab Bedouins in Nineveh Governorate in Iraq, as saying that the United States has established its “largest” military base in Iraq and plans to install four more bases in the future. But what is worth noting is that Arabic language sources quote the same individual as saying that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has set up bases in Nineveh.
The Mashregh analyst also describes US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman’s January visit to Karbala as an effort to “infiltrate” Iraqi holy cities. “The US ambassador’s statements in the course of his visit to Karbala Governorate clearly show that Washington’s preying eyes are focused on this governorate, which annually receives millions of pilgrims from Iraq and the rest of the world, and has better economic conditions than most other governorates in Iraq… It is only natural that the US desires to open a new chapter of engagement in economic projects in Karbala. This is evident in the US ambassador’s overt call for reforming certain trade rules.”
The analyst also expresses the worry about the prospects for Saudi and even Israeli “infiltration of Iraq in the reconstruction phase of that country,” as well as about the prospects for Riyadh and Tel Aviv influencing Iraq’s parliamentary elections slated for May 12.
Comment: Tehran swiftly filled the power vacuum in Iraq in the wake of the US-led 2003 invasion and the collapse of the Ba’ath regime. Tehran also exploited the 2011 US withdrawal and the subsequent emergence of ISIS to further consolidate its influence in Iraq. However, regional countries’ latest efforts to restore their presence in Iraq have alarmed Tehran. After all, Tehran managed to score relatively easy gains in Iraq because regional and international players were largely staying on the sidelines. If these players decide to play a more active role in post-ISIS Iraq, Tehran’s influence in the Arab country is set to decline.