The mysteries of the Middle East: starring Israel, France and Iran - TAHA KILINÇ

The mysteries of the Middle East: starring Israel, France and Iran

The drone attack last Sunday on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s home was this week’s biggest kerfuffle of the Middle East. Following the assassination attempt, the details of which were divulged in the “World” section of our newspaper, all eyes turned toward the “usual suspects” in Iraq. The number one suspect is of course Iran-backed Shia militias. The Iran front, as well as these groups, of course, released statements condemning the attack in which Kadhimi was wounded in his left hand, not to mention the serious injuries of his bodyguards. However, these statements, which appeared to be parrot versions of one another, did not suffice in clearing anyone of their suspected involvement in the crime. As it is, it has been general knowledge, for quite a while now, that Mustafa Al-Kadhimi was being threatened by Iranian Shia militias.

What did Sadr have to say about it?

Even though he himself is of Shia faith, al-Kadhimi, who was inaugurated as prime minister on May 6, 2020, has not been a popular figure among the Shia for trying to strike a political balance between Iran and global actors. Iran-backed groups, which suffered a great voter loss in the general elections on Oct. 10, are resisting with all their might against the new political order in Iraq. Shi'ite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who emerged victorious from the elections, acting in coordination with Al-Kadhimi is another striking point of the political arena in Baghdad. For example, following the assassination attempt on the prime minister, Sadr said: “This terror attack targets the stability of Iraq. The aim of the attackers is to plunge Iraq into a state of chaos and anarchy controlled by non-state forces.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out at whom Sadr was directing his words with these statements.

Ninety minutes in Israel

As this debacle unfolded in Iraq, an intriguing article penned by Yossi Melman in the Israeli Haaretz newspaper revealed a significant development: 

It seems that the son of Libyan warlord General Khalifa Haftar, Saddam Haftar, landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport while flying from Dubai to Libya on November 1, and continued his journey after 90 minutes on the ground. According to Melman: “Father and son are seeking military and diplomatic assistance from Israel, and in exchange promise that if they head the national unity and reconciliation government to be established in Libya after the presidential elections on December 24, they will launch diplomatic ties” with Tel Aviv. The secret visit of Haftar Junior was organized by a group of consultants hailing from Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Thwarting Turkey

Simultaneously, the harbingers of a deepening diplomatic crisis between Morocco and Algeria intensified in the western corner of North Africa. The culprit behind the crisis, which reached boiling point in August with the mutual withdrawal of ambassadors, is no mystery: France. On the one hand, France is using all the leverage it has to pit Morocco and Algeria against each other, while striving to establish an order in Libya that serves its interests on the other. A little nugget for those who like reading between the lines: The plane that took Saddam Haftar to Israel belonged to a French firm. It is well known that French intelligence running amok in Libya, while trying to sabotage Turkey’s initiatives in the country to restore balance.

A common enemy  

The objective to thwart Turkey is a policy conducted by Iran, too, in the regions to the east. It is as if not a day goes by where there isn’t some form of “The Ottomans are trying to make a comeback” headlining the newspapers in Iranian media, with no shortage of anti-Turkey and anti-Erdogan sentiments in the press. Iran is also reinforcing its control and expansionist policy in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen through its militias on the ground, while trying to keep Turkey out of the game as much as possible in these countries. It’s no secret that the state mind in Tehran wants a Turkey which can be controlled, and an Ankara with limited power. Monitoring the Azerbaijan-Armenia front closely will suffice to understand Iran's intentions on this issue.

Even though Paris and Tehran may at first blush seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum,  with low contacts, it is certainly instructive to witness how both are locked on the common goal of "thwarting Turkey" from the westernmost to the easternmost part of the region, and how vividly some tensions have been transferred from the depths of history to the present.


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