“Radical Ideology to Survive in Mideast Even after ISIS”

Sabah Zanganeh

With the recent achievements of the Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in their fight against ISIS terrorists in Iraq, it seems the days of ISIS are numbered in Iraq. But does it mean the region will finally get rid of radical ideologies?

Speaking in a Farsi interview with Khabar Online, senior Iranian expert on Middle East affairs, Sabah Zanganeh, said that despite heavy defeats suffered by the ISIS terror group, the Takfiri [extremist] ideology will survive in the region.

“ISIS is on the verge of total collapse as an entity in Iraq. However it will survive as an ideology and sabotage campaign,” said Zanganeh, a former Iranian envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

He went on saying that in Iraq’s Mosul the operation for retaking the small areas still controlled by ISIS is going on strongly.

He added the same fate is awaiting ISIS in Syria, saying with the further advance of Syrian army, all the ISIS-held areas in the country would be cleared from the militants in the near future.

He described the current situation in Syria as dangerous and complicated and said there are different groups and states involved in the war in Syria.

“After Trump took office, the US is seeking to play a new role in Syria. This is what the Saudi Arabia and its regional allies are interested in. Syria has turned into a scene of proxy wars between different states. For the time being, Syria is divided into three regions: 40 percent under ISIS, 20 percent under al-Nusra Front and 40 percent under Syrian government,” he said.

Zanganeh referred to the latest deals between the Syrian government and the armed opposition groups to transfer militants and their families to certain areas, and said it was a humanitarian move by Damascus.

“This means that the Syrian government does not intend to eradicate all of dissidents. Rather, it prefers to hold negotiation with them. This is a positive move which can pave the way for political solutions to the war in Syria. But in Iraq the situation is different and we are witnessing the continuation of hit and run attacks by the forces affiliated with the US and its regional allies,” he noted.

Zanganeh described Iraq’s political situation as vulnerable and said the US insistence on postponing parliamentary elections in Iraq threatens the country’s political stability.

The US is postponing Iraqi parliamentary elections as it seeks to have pro-American MPs in the new parliament.

“If the US manages to postpone the elections, this means that there would be no legal government and parliament in Iraq when the terms of the ruling parties’ come to an end.  The Iraqi Constitution has nothing to say about such conditions and this can lead Iraq to anarchy. Washington is looking to have pro-American MPs in the new parliament. To this end, it has been exerting a huge amount of pressure on the Iraqi government to postpone the elections,” he said.

He touched on the growing public dissatisfaction with the corrupt officials in Iraq and said the only way to avoid anarchy is having the Constitution revised.

“If the Constitution is not revised, public dissatisfaction will grow and this puts the country on the verge of unrest. The western media reports always accuse Iran of interfering in Iraq’s affairs, but this is the US which is meddling in Iraq and deciding for the nation,” he said.

The expert warned against divisions among Sunni and Shiite groups in Iraq and said the rifts pave the way for corruption and anarchy.

Western media reports always accuse Iran of interfering in Iraq’s affairs, but this is the US which is meddling in Iraq and deciding for the nation.

He also cited the internal divisions in Kurdistan Region and said the oil companies owned by the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed a number of agreements with the ruling party in the region last year, but faced strong opposition from Baghdad.

“This has created an uncertainty in the region because foreign investors are not sure about the economic stability of the region. To cope with the uncertainty, the regional government of Kurdistan threatens to hold independence referendum,” Zanganeh added.

He said Iraq has still a long way to go to achieve stability, adding “after the overthrowing of Saddam Hussein, many said that the time has finally come to establish a stable government in Iraq, but what we saw was nothing more than instability.”

“To achieve stability, the Iraqis need to revise their policies. Meanwhile, all these changes have to be made by Iraqis themselves instead of foreign powers.”

He said Iraqis drew on Lebanon’s experience to write their Constitution, adding such constitutions don’t pay off when the country is in trouble.

“The problem with constitutions like this is that they can’t help the citizens with a clue as to who is violating the law and who is corrupt,” he said.

He touched upon the latest diplomatic tension in the region between Saudi Arabia and its allies on the one hand and Qatar on the other hand, saying Saudi Arabia cut its ties with Doha by Washington’s order.

“The main issue which deserves further exploration is that Saudi Arabia and its regional allies have already begun new efforts to normalise ties with Iraq. This is a good development for Iraq, but the interference of the Arab countries in Iraq’s internal affairs could threaten the sovereignty of this war-torn country,” he noted.

Zanganeh went on saying the Saudis thought at first that the US could be easily embroiled in any conflict in the region after the two sides signed a lucrative arms deal.

“But they are mistaken as the US president has made it clear to the Saudis that Washington would not get involved in any conflict to support Saudi Arabia,” he said.

According to Zanganeh, Saudi Arabia and its allies have always been trying to portray a negative picture of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a regional threat. “To this end, the Saudis have not had any hesitation in using whatever they have in power against Iran including triggering religious divisions in the region,” he pointed out.

Zanganeh also stated that the recent arms deal between the US and Saudi Arabia can disrupt the balance of power in the region and added, “Today, we see that Saudi Arabia is using the arms that it has bought from the US and UK in its war on the impoverished nation of Yemen.”

The Iranian expert went on to say that with the current diplomatic crisis in the region, many are worried that the Saudis could use the arms against Qatar.

Saudi Arabia will not engage itself in a direct war with Iran as they don’t have the courage and capability to do so.

He said it is unlikely that Saudis could enter a direct war with Iran because they lack the required courage and capabilities to do so. “Therefore, for the near future, we will continue to witness sporadic hit and run attacks by the Saudis against Iran in the neighbouring countries,” he mentioned.

He called on the Iranian officials to explicitly slam the Saudis for their destructive role in the region and said unlike what the Saudis claim Iran has never been a threat to Saudi Arabia.

“The new rulers of Saudi Arabia are following the footsteps of their ancestors in violating international laws and seeking to occupy the neighbouring territories,” he underlined.

Touching on the ways to remove bilateral tensions, he said there would be no improvement in ties until Saudi Arabia shows its commitments to the international law.

He also talked about the safety of Iranian pilgrims during this year’s Hajj rituals and said Iran has to take the issue seriously and have the Saudis make firm commitments to prevent the tragic events like what happened two years ago in Mina.

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