Iraqi attitudes harden on Iranian meddling

Iran Focus: As the new Iraqi transitional government emerges, interviews with Iraqis from a variety of backgrounds and a review of the local press indicate a hardening of attitude among ordinary Iraqis on the role of Iran’s Islamic government in the country’s developments. Iran Focus - Baghdad, June 1 – As the new Iraqi transitional government emerges, interviews with Iraqis from a variety of backgrounds and a review of the local press indicate a hardening of attitude among ordinary Iraqis on the role of Iran’s Islamic government in the country’s developments.

“They must stop treating our country as a part of their caliphate,” said Mona Al-Kaisi, 21, who studies English literature in Baghdad University. She blames the rise in harassment of unveiled women and other acts of intimidation by Muslim fundamentalists in Iraq on the Iranian regime’s massive radio and television broadcasts into Iraq.

“It’s plain incitement,” Al-Kaisi said at a café on Al-Jaderiya Avenue near the university, as her two female friends nodded in approval. “Iraqi men, even devout Muslims, didn’t treat women like this before.”

Safa Al-Yasseri, a journalist, believes that the Iranian regime is directly involved in the recent flare-up of violence in southern Iraq.

“When you go to Al-Amara or Al-Kut, you hear these guys speaking Arabic with a Persian accent,” Al-Yasseri said at his home in Baghdad. “You can tell they are the ones who are running the show. Iran has set up bases just on the other side of the border to train extremists and send them in. They try to conceal their activities, but talk privately to taxi drivers or restaurant owners in those cities and they’ll tell you about ‘regular visitors’ from the other side of the border. It’s an open secret down there.”

The issue has become so important to Iraqis that newspapers in Baghdad are talking about it. The daily Al-Manar Al-Yawm’s editorialist wrote on May 31: “From the first day after Saddam's fall, thousands of Iranian intelligence agents poured into Iraq and set up businesses, charities, and religious schools to camouflage their activities. Iran has helped Zarqawi and his group to enter Iraq to commit atrocities and carnage.”

Another Baghdad daily, Al-Hadath, wrote that the Iranian government’s meddling in Iraq reflected the mullahs’ deep-seated fear of a genuine democracy flourishing on their western flank. “Tehran fears the ultimate transition of Iraq from oppression and destitute to a country tapping its huge national wealth and Iraqis from all walks of life living in peace and harmony. Such an Iraq may propel its neighbors, particularly Iran, towards democracy by offering a model,” the paper wrote on May 29. “Iran has set up a special agency to train and equip Iraqi insurgents. This is just another page in the long episode of Iran’s meddling in the current conflict in Iraq.”