As Iran lends its support in fighting IS, Iraq’s vice president tells Sky News posters of the supreme leader give him chills.
Iraq’s vice president Iyad Allawi has told Sky News that Iran’s involvement in his country is unacceptable and is failing to push Islamic State fighters back. Speaking from his office in Baghdad, Mr Allawi said he was very concerned about Iran’s increasing influence on the militias fighting the war against IS in Iraq. He said: “I think the role of any regional power or any power in Iraq’s affairs is unacceptable.”
Mr Allawi went on to explain that Iran’s role “doing what they are doing and sending officers to fight and to lead, and declaring that Baghdad is becoming the capital of the Persian empire, is unacceptable”. There are dozens of different Shia militias fighting IS in Iraq right now. They may have the same enemy, but that doesn’t make them friends. There’s a history of animosity. In a cemetery in the southern city of Najaf, more than 50 fighters are buried every day, according to gravediggers there.
Where you are buried though depends on which militia you fought with. The graves marked with a yellow logo are for the Hezbollah Battalions, a militia active in Iraq for over a decade and on the US terror list since 2009. In another part of the cemetery we found the white flags of the League of the Righteous. Their leader is out fighting but his grave lays here dug up as a sign that he’s not afraid of death. What many militias do have in common though is Iranian backing. Iran is providing weapons, funding and has recently carried out airstrikes to support the militias.
The strong Iranian influence in Iraq is not new but just how visible it has become is quite staggering. Pictures of Iran’s supreme leader – Ali Khamenei – are plastered all over the country. There is no doubt Iranian help is key to defeating IS but many have serious concerns over what this may mean for the future. Mr Allawi says the posters of Khamenei send chills up his spine and there will be a high price to pay for Iranian involvement. For him, the main threat to the country’s stability is the militias.
He said: “As far as I’m concerned these clusters of militias, whether Sunni or Shia, are the main threat and indeed the governments and regional powers who support these groups are the biggest threat to Iraq and to the future of Iraq.” Mr Allawi also warned: “The failure of this country means the failure of the whole region. That’s why it’s very important to keep Iraq as a united, federal, democratic country and to get reconciliation on the ground and to build a viable state.” As the battle to free Iraq from IS continues, the larger war between those fighting on the ground – and their backers elsewhere – is becoming increasingly clear. Iraq’s future, and the stability of the region, hangs in the balance, Sky News reports.