Since the U.S. invasion to Iraq in March 2003, Iranian authorities seized the opportunity to add this country to their territory. In this respect, they silently conquered all critical elements of power through their proxies and militias.
Today, experts say Iran-backed militias, parties, and officials are the main barrier in front of the Iraqi people to make a progressive and prosperous country. Not only did these obedient elements apply Tehran’s political and economic sovereignty in Iraq but also put the fate of the country and next generations in murky conditions.
“Along Iraq’s borders, a corrupt customs-evasion cartel is diverting billions of dollars away from state coffers to line the pockets of armed groups, political parties and crooked officials,” France24 reported on March 29.
The French website obtained its detailed report through a six-month investigation moderated by AFP staff. In their investigations, AFP staff interviewed customs workers, government officials, port workers and importers, and ordinary people, shedding light on the real aspect of Iran’s influence in Iraq. Due to threats to their lives, many interviewees urged to remain anonymous.
“Worse than a jungle. In a jungle, at least animals eat and get full. These guys are never satisfied,” said an Iraqi customs worker to AFP.
Iraq suffers from enormous economic dilemmas arose from slow bureaucracy, fractious politics, and a limited non-oil industry. However, the country is subjected to an unannounced occupation by its eastern neighbor Iran via its proxies, which have derived unbridled corruption from the ayatollahs.
Also, customs provide one of the few sources of state revenues, and to keep disparate groups and tribes happy, many of them close to Iran, entry points are divvied up among them and federal duties largely supplanted by bribes.
“There’s a kind of collusion between officials, political parties, gangs and corrupt businessmen,” Iraq’s Finance Minister Ali Allawi told AFP.
Back in October 2019, in an exclusive report, the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revealed the role of Setad Bazsazi Atabat Aliyat [Holy Shrines’ Reconstruction Headquarters] as a front organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) for ensuring Tehran’s malign meddling in Iraq and Syria.
“The Iranian regime uses humanitarian or charity organizations and institutions, in addition to its official organizations such as embassies and consulates, as a cover for the terrorist Quds Force to intervene in neighboring countries. The mullahs have systematically used these organizations to secretly occupy Iraq in particular,” NCRI wrote.
In March 2020, the United States Treasury Department designated several entities and individuals linked to the headquarters due to their involvement in terrorism.
“Among other malign activities, these entities and individuals perpetrated or supported: smuggling through the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr; money laundering through Iraqi front companies; selling Iranian oil to the Syrian regime; smuggling weapons to Iraq and Yemen; promoting propaganda efforts in Iraq on behalf of the IRGC-QF and its terrorist militias; intimidating Iraqi politicians; and using funds and public donations made to an ostensibly religious institution to supplement IRGC-QF budgets,” the U.S. Treasury Department’s statement read.
These ‘construction activities’ are the flipside of the Iranian government’s apparent influence in Iraq and other countries. In fact, the ayatollahs have extended their web across these states, particularly Iraq, and won control of almost all sensitive sectors.
During their protests that have lasted more than a year, Iraqi protesters constantly call for an end to the activities of paramilitary gangs affiliated with Iran and expelling all Iranian agents from their country. For instance, Iraqi protesters have called on the government to disarm Iran-backed militias, which would be a pivotal event and herald a new era in this region.