ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi Foreign Ministry on Saturday called on the US embassy in Baghdad to remove its recent social media post that was critical of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Written in both English and Arabic, the embassy’s post came on Thursday, alleging widespread corruption in the Iranian government in general and its supreme leader specifically. “Corruption is rife in all parts of the Iranian Regime,” the post read.
“The possessions of the current supreme leader Ali Khamenei alone are estimated at $200 billion, while many people languish in poverty because of the dire economic situation in Iran after 40 years of rule by the mullahs,” it continued.
Iran is yet to make an official comment on the US embassy’s statement but Iraqi factions and militias closely allied to Tehran made firm responses, calling for the post to be deleted. The Iraqi foreign ministry had a similar critical reaction, stating the mission’s action is in opposition to “the constitutional principles of Iraq.”
The embassy’s post “is contrary to the nature of its work in the host country in accordance with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, and relevant international norms,” a statement from the Iraqi foreign ministry read.
The ministry called on the US embassy to “delete the offensive post, and refrain from” such actions that “harm Iraq’s relations with neighboring countries and friendly countries” in the future.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry underlined that it wants to stay neutral on Iran, on which Washington continues its maximum pressure campaign with a keen focus on the country’s economic sector.
The US imposed successive rounds of sanctions on Iran after President Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark nuclear accord with Tehran in May 2018. Recently, the US also designated the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization.
The IRGC, specifically its Quds Force, headed by Major General Qassim Soleimani, backs an extensive network of militias across the Middle East, through which they exercise political influence on internal political affairs, as is the case in Iraq.
Since last year, such Iran-backed entities, chief among them militias that make up the brunt of the Hashd al-Shaabi – which have a substantial number of seats in the Iraqi parliament – have intensified calls for a legislation that would expel foreign troops from Iraq. The demands are particularly explicit toward US forces.
These calls became even more intensified when Trump said the US would withdraw its forces from Syria and transfer at least some of them to Iraq, where they would remain to keep a watchful eye on Iran, a country that is “a real problem.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi asked Trump to retract the comment, highlighting the predicament the fresh PM has found himself in as he tries to balance relations with the two countries and simultaneously deal with the issues of his own country, torn by years of civil strife and war with terrorist organizations following the collapse of the Ba’athist regime in 2003.
Along with its strong political sway over internal Iraqi politics, Iran has a major presence in the economic arena as well, with Baghdad being dependent on Iranian electricity to meet the country’s needs, particularly in the summer, when demand soars.
Speaking to Kurdistan 24, Iraq analyst Joel Wing, author of the Musings on Iraq blog, highlighted Abdul-Mahdi’s conundrum but pointed out his cabinet’s incongruity of responses during such spats between Iran and the US.
“Iran and its allies are constantly putting out anti-US propaganda such as America is behind the Islamic State. The US hit back talking about the wealth of the Iranian leadership,” Wing said.
“That was widely attacked by the pro-Iran camp in Baghdad and probably led to the government’s response,” Wing said, adding “ironically the administration has not done the same for comments by Tehran and its friends about the United States.”
One statement that carried a malicious edge and appeared to be a response to the US embassy’s post came from firebrand cleric and critic of both Iran and the US, Muqtada al-Sadr.
He called for “the closure of the US Embassy in Baghdad,” and warned that “if Iraq is plunged into this conflict…the embassy will be in the range of [the fire of] the resistance again.”
Sadr has fought two major battles against the US military since the end of Saddam Hussein’s reign in 2003 through his militia “the Mehdi Army,” now rebranded as Saraya al-Salam, or “the Peace Corps.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Kosar Nawzad contributed to this report)