EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: It takes only a quick read of the main articles featured in al-Wifaq, the Arabic language mouthpiece of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to grasp the complexity of US involvement in Iraq and the question it raises on whether the US presence abets or hinders Iranian control over Iraq.
From the perspective of the leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militia, and indeed of the Iranian political elite, which finances the mouthpiece and gives the militia the opportunity to disseminate its ideas, the US created groups from which ISIS emerged to justify a renewed US military presence in Iraq. The Iranian-backed Shiite militias accuse US forces of openly abetting ISIS, including transporting its people by helicopter to fight those militias. There is no mention of the role the US and its allies’ air forces played in pummeling ISIS, the major threat faced by Iraq and by Iran, too, in the long run.
Yet the same newspaper also reports on its front page, albeit in a disparaging fashion, that Iraq will soon be hosting a prominent personality from Saudi Arabia for the first time since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. That visitor is rumored to be none other than Muhammad bin Salman, the rabidly anti-Iranian Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defense, who is undoubtedly viewed as Public Enemy No. 1 by the Iranian regime. The visit is perceived to be part of a process initiated in October 2017 to improve relations between the two states. That process reflects the desire of the head of the present Iraqi government, Haidar al-Abadi, to keep Tehran at bay. Iran’s Saudi nemesis enjoys American backing, especially under the present US administration.