Iran took advantage of this Arab absence and launched a massive operation to prevent the establishment of a pro-Western Iraqi regime.
Tehran facilitated the invasion, but hastened to shake the stability that the Americans were betting on to build what they called the new democratic Iraq. Iran also benefited from dangerous decisions taken by Washington, including the dissolution of the Iraqi army, the de-Baathification, and the illusion of being able to rebuild Iraq from scratch after the dismantling of the state.
Once I asked President Jalal Talabani, who was returning from a trip to Tehran, what Iran really wanted from America. He said that he had concluded that it was ready to negotiate with Washington over files ranging from Afghanistan to Lebanon.
He explained: “Iran does not say that it wants a share, but rather that it seeks normal relations with the US, an end to hostility and to the seizure of Iranian funds in America.”
Talabani was more realistic than former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. He realized that the relationship with Washington was not enough, and it was necessary to pass through Tehran.
In 2007, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Baghdad, which was under the US occupation.
As American checkpoints facilitated the passage of the visitor’s convoy, it soon became clear that the Iranian president’s visit constituted a message that the American army would leave one day, but Iran, by virtue of geography, would remain near and inside Iraq. This is what actually happened, especially when slain IRGC Commander Qassem Soleimani began to destabilize Iraqi soil under the feet of the American army.
Iyad Allawi was not pro-American. He did not recognize their right to tailor the new Iraqi political scene as they wanted. Moreover, his meetings with a number of US officials were not fruitful. In parallel, no language of understanding was found with Tehran. He did not accept its terms, while the Iranian capital failed to tolerate his approach.
On March 7, 2010, general elections were held in Iraq. The “Iraqiya” list, led by Allawi, won 91 seats, while the State of Law coalition, led by Nouri al-Maliki, obtained 89 seats.
According to the applicable interpretation of the constitution, Allawi was supposed to be entrusted with the task of forming the new government. Al-Maliki was able to get from the Federal Supreme Court another interpretation of the article that talks about the largest bloc. A severe political crisis erupted that lasted about nine months, and ended in Al-Maliki’s favor.
I asked Allawi about the parties that prevented him from forming the government, he replied: “We achieved victory in the elections despite everything we were exposed to. Five hundred people were subjected to procedures under the pretext of “de-Baathification.” Among them were a number of our candidates. They assassinated nine persons. They closed entire regions to prevent our supporters from voting, and yet we were ahead of them by three seats. In fact, I was surprised by what happened. I did not expect the American and Iranian stances to reach this point. America and Iran prevented me from forming a government. They worked together.”
Allawi continued: “During that period, then-US Vice President Joe Biden visited Baghdad about three times a month. His concern was that I would give up in favor of Al-Maliki. He asked me to assume the presidency of the republic, and I told him that the people elected us to form the government, so how could I become president of the republic without a job or work (the nature of the position is quasi-protocol)… Biden repeated his demand, and I replied: “By God, if you do not allow me to become prime minister, terrorism will grow stronger… as will hatred for the regime…”
“During that period, US-Iranian negotiations were taking place in Muscat. The American delegation was headed by Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor under then-President Barack Obama. The Iranian side conveyed to the Americans a threat, stating that Iran will stop negotiations and cause problems in Iraq if Iyad Allawi becomes prime minister.”
“The truth is that I met Biden about 20 times. I’ve known him since he was in charge of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His personality is shaky, and he is a liar and a hypocrite,” Allawi stated.
I asked the former premier whether the US destroyed Iraq, he replied: “Yes, America ruined Iraq.”
On whether Washington had partners, he said: “Yes, Iran. Beginning with the dissolution of the Iraqi army, to the Popular Mobilization Forces, the armed militias and terrorism, the death of democracy and the spread of political sectarianism…”
I am Major General Qassem Soleimani
After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, a prominent player appeared on the Iraqi scene: General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Quds Force. His role was not only limited to draining the American army, but went beyond to impose his decision in choosing presidents, forming governments, and determining paths. He assumed a similar role in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
I asked Allawi about his relationship with Soleimani, he said: “I met General Soleimani in the house of Adel Abdul Mahdi (later Prime Minister). Adel invited me to dinner, but he did not tell me who would be present… Half an hour later, two men arrived at the place… The first one approached me and said: “I am Major General Qassem Soleimani.” During the meeting, Soleimani told me: “We worked against you all the time.” I replied: “And I was against you all the time.”
Allawi recounted his conversation with the Iranian commander.
“I told him: Why did you work against us? I included you in the Sharm El-Sheikh meeting in defiance of international will. I opened all ways for you. We stopped the activity of the Mujahideen Khalq and seized their heavy weapons. I sent you the strongest economic delegation, on the basis of improving the position of the Iraqi neighborhood. He replied: “We made a mistake, and I am now in the presence of a senior commander.” I told him: “I am neither a big leader nor a watermelon. Do not interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs, and things will return to their normal course.”
Putin: Why don’t you go to Iran?
I asked Allawi to recall the most important pieces of advice he was given to visit Iran, and I will let him narrate it.
“In the seventh month of 2010, I visited Moscow, but I did not have any official status. President Vladimir Putin invited me to a dinner in the Kremlin, attended only by the interpreter. Putin asked me why I don’t go to Iran, and I replied: “Would you, for example, go to Finland to become President of the Republic of Russia?” He said: “No.” I said: “Why do you want me to go to Iran to become their follower? I don’t want the premiership nor the presidency. I am a servant of the Iraqi people and the Arab nation and I am honored to do so, and I am not ready to beg Iran or others for a position.” He asked me: “Do you mind if I send them an advisor of my own?” I replied: “No, but on the condition that I meet them here, in Egypt, or in Baghdad, but I will not go to Iran.”
Allawi continued: “The truth is that Putin is a nice, important and knowledgeable person. My personal opinion is that Russia’s morals are closer to the Arabs than America’s. They are more serious, frank and direct than the Americans.”
Bush does not deserve to be president
I asked Allawi about his impression of his meeting with President George W. Bush. He replied: “He does not deserve to be president of America. I did not see him steadfast in clarity or ideas. They had no policy after the fall of the regime… Disbanding the army, de-Baathification, and all these random practices. I explained this to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and asked him to talk to him more about the Iraqi file.”