Why Shiites are divided over Iranian role in Iraq

By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

On the night of April 30, the crowd that stormed the Green Zone gathered in the Great Celebrations Square inside the zone and chanted “Iran Out Out” and “Qasem Soleimani … Sadr is a divine person,” in reference to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

This indicates that feelings and political stances hostile to the policy that Iran has adopted in regard to Iraq since 2003 have been revived among the Shiites.

It is understandable that hatred for Iran prevails within the Iraqi Sunni community, due to sectarian considerations that are influenced by the current sectarian conflict in the region. Hatred for Iran, based on the Arab nationalist considerations hostile to Persian nationalism, which prevailed under the rule of Saddam Hussein, is also understandable.

Yet, what happened in Celebrations Square points to the unique reasons behind the feelings that prevail among the Shiites, which are supposed to be on the side of the Iranians in the current conflict.

The emergence of this new political stance away from the sectarian affiliation is an important development in the Shiite community’s political awareness, which has been a result of the Iranian bias and arrogance in dealing with the Iraqi issue after the fall of the Baath regime.

The criticism of the Iranian stances by Iraqi Shiite religious and political leaders is growing. On March 8, 2015, Ali Younesi, President Hassan Rouhani’s adviser on ethnic and religious minorities affairs, said that Iraq is a part of the great Iranian civilization.

In response to these remarks, the spokesman for Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani, Sayyid Ahmad al-Safi, said on March 13, 2015, “We are proud of our country, our identity, our independence and our sovereignty. While we welcome any help offered today from our brothers and friends in our fight against terrorism and thank them for it, it doesn’t mean that we would ignore our identity and independence in any way. For we are writing our history with the souls, wounds and blood that our sons from all constituents and ethnicities shed during the battles against terrorism.”

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