By Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute
Iran’s mullahs are continuing to meddle in the internal affairs of Arab countries, especially Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
This is happening while the U.S. administration and other Western powers continue to delude themselves into thinking that appeasing Iran’s rulers and signing a new nuclear deal with them will bring security and stability to the Middle East and the rest of the world.
The goal of Iran’s mullahs is to spread their control to as many countries as possible by using their terrorist proxies, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthi militia in Yemen.
The mullahs’ efforts, however, are not limited to the use of military force and terrorism in the four Arab countries.
Iran’s rulers are also seeking to increase their political influence in these countries. They aim to turn Iran into a superpower and major player in the Middle East at a time when U.S. influence in the region appears to be dwindling.
Iran’s mullahs and their allies also want to make sure that no more Arabs or Muslims will make peace with Israel.
Needless to say, Iran’s mullahs are not only opposed to peace with Israel. They and their proxies have repeatedly stated that their real goal is to eliminate Israel.
Iraq bringing joy to Iranian leaders
Now the mullahs have every reason to be satisfied. Their effort to stop Arabs from signing peace agreements with Israel scored an achievement when Iraq’s parliament voted in favor of a law to criminalize normalization with the “Zionist entity,”punishable with a death sentence.
The law is a huge gift to Iran and its allies in Iraq. On the other hand, it is a severe blow to those Iraqis and Arabs who want to make peace with Israel but are now afraid of Iran and its puppets.
“The [Iraqi] House of Representatives voted, during its session today, on a proposed law criminalizing normalization with the Zionist entity,” the parliament’s media department said in a statement.
The new law stipulates penalties, including life or temporary imprisonment, and aims, according to its first article, to “prevent the establishment of diplomatic, political, military, economic, cultural, or any other form of relations with the Zionist entity.”
Iraq, in other words, is saying: “We will kill any Iraqi who dares to engage in any form of normalization with Israeli Jews.” This warning, of course, has brought joy to the leaders of Iran.
Unsurprisingly, Palestinians were quick to welcome the Iraqi parliament’s approval of the bill criminalizing normalization with Israel. The Palestinians have always been among the first to condemn any Arab who talks to Israel or seeks to make peace with it.
Rouhi Fattouh, head of the Palestinian National Council, the PLO’s legislative body, said in a statement that the “honorable position is not strange to Iraq, which is historically known for its political and economic support for the Palestinian people.”
Fattouh called on Arab and Islamic parliaments to follow the example of Iraq’s decision to criminalize normalization with Israel, which, he professed, practices the “most heinous crimes” against the Palestinian people and their Islamic and Christian lands and sanctities.
The Palestinian hypocrisy
It is worth noting that Fattouh is a senior official of the PLO, the organization that signed the Oslo Accords with Israel in 1993-1995. Then, the former leader of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin claiming that the organization recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
Fattouh is a hypocrite: his opposition to normalization with Israel stands in sharp contrast to the Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel.
Since signing the Oslo Accords, the PLO leaders, including Mahmoud Abbas, have been talking to and doing business with Israelis almost on a daily basis.
Iran has also praised the law, saying it was a source of pride and a sign of the “brave” positions of the Iraqi people.
Yet, while Iran and the Palestinians, including Hamas, were celebrating the new law, some Iraqi writers and journalists said that the law was counterproductive and served only Iran’s interests.
Some even warned that Iran’s real intention is to destroy and isolate Iraq.
“There is an Iranian desire to isolate Iraq from the world behind this law, which the Iraqis do not need,” wrote Iraqi author Farouk Yusef.
“Iran, not Israel, is the greatest affliction for Iraq. Iran, which did not leave a place in Iraq without interfering in it, is seeking through a scandalous law to destroy Iraq’s relations with foreign companies that will fear cooperation with a country that may at any moment put it on the list of countries that cooperate with Israel. And Iran is the only beneficiary of Iraq’s isolation from the world while it is working to develop its global relations,” he added.
Yusef said that a majority of Iraqis have realized that Iran is more dangerous to their existence than Israel. The Iraqis, he added, would have preferred to see a law criminalizing working for Iran because they do not want to end up like Lebanon, which has been destroyed by Hezbollah.
According to Yusef, Iraq is losing its sovereignty, while its politicians threaten to boycott Israel, which does not interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs. “This game is part of the Iraqi disaster,” he lamented.
Normalization wasn’t on the table anyway
Iraqi journalist Hamid Al-Kifaey also warned that the new law criminalizing normalization with Israel would isolate Iraq from the rest of the world and make it subordinate to only one country — Iran. Al-Kifaey pointed out that even Iran had in the past cooperated with Israel, bought weapons from it, and exchanged military intelligence with it throughout the period of the Iran-Iraq War:
“Iranian-Israeli cooperation was well-known, although it was not public… Anyone who reviews the records of the 1980s will learn about direct transactions between Iran and Israel, the most important of which are U.S. arms sales, which amounted to $2 billion a year.”
Al-Kifaey wrote that the time has come for the Iraqi people to take a clear position on the Iranian-affiliated political forces “that seek to mislead them, play on their feelings and tamper with their interests in the name of principles, honor, patriotism and religion.”
He noted that the issue of normalization between Iraq and Israel was anyway not on the table, which raises questions about the timing of the law:
“The issue was not raised in the first place… The forces affiliated with Iran accuse everyone who refuses to be subordinate to Iran of seeking normalization with Israel. These forces try to exploit the Iraqis’ strong feelings towards Palestine and its people.”
‘Agents of Israel’
Iraqi writer and political analyst Akeel Abbas noted that violation of the new law “can lead to the death penalty or life imprisonment without any commutation of the penalty.”
Abbas pointed out that the current version of the law could even criminalize “anyone who may read a book by an Israeli author that talks about the conflict.”
He expressed fear that the law may be used to target political opponents who have been protesting against the corruption of the ruling elite in Baghdad. The anti-corruption activists have often been accused by the government of being “agents of Israel.”
This is how Arab dictatorships regularly seek to discredit the opposition or anyone who speaks out against corruption and bad government: by accusing them of being Israeli or American spies and traitors.
Abbas complained that the law represents “an infringement on the right of the Iraqi citizen to think, read and speak ideas.”
Iran is not waiting
In another article, Abbas wrote that the law “opens a wide door to tyranny in Iraq… [and] radically and explicitly violates two of the basic principles stipulated in the Iraqi constitution, which prohibits enacting a law that contradicts the principles of democracy and basic rights and freedoms.”
Abbas also warned that the law “will do more injustice to innocent Iraqis and lead to more ethnic tension in the country.”
Legal expert Maitham Handal also expressed fear that the new law would be exploited to “muzzle freedoms” and used as a weapon against political opponents.
Iraq’s new law is yet another example of how Iran and its allies feel confident enough to continue with their malicious and expansionist schemes in the Middle East, even as the U.S. and other Western powers continue to search for ways to resume the stalled negotiations with Iran’s mullahs over reaching a new nuclear deal.
Additionally, while Russia has been losing thousands of soldiers trying to take over Ukraine, Iran, without so much as swatting a fly, has been quietly filling the void left by Russians abandoning Syria.
Iran is not waiting until it possesses nuclear weapons to proceed with its schemes. Instead, it is spreading its aggression like a deadly virus to other Muslim nations.
Or do the Biden administration and the international community secretly want the destruction of Israel and the Gulf States?
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