Temperatures are rising. Tempers are short. Sanctions started again over the border in nearby Iran. Protests in Iraq and Iran continue while Shia influence in the newly forming government is of concern to many in the international community. The price of oil is predicted to rise over $90.00 a barrel and the issue of corruption remains paramount for the population of both countries. Sound familiar? You may not know about the "Twin Pillars" foreign policy first recommended by Henry Kissinger and implemented under US Republican President Nixon. The "twins" refer to Saudi Arabia and Iran. The misguided interference resulted in the Shah- Mohammed Reza Shah-Pahlavi's installation, millions of dollars supplied along with advisers, technicians and trainers to build up Iran's military infrastructure and push start their economy in the 1970's. Then under US Democrat President Carter's administration the Shah was refused treatment for his life threatening lymphoma and conditions were set after the Iran hostage fiasco for Khomeni's Islamic revolutionary government to topple the monarchy and institute a radical Islamic theocracy, which is in place to this day.
Under Khomeni's rule Iran has developed a nuclear program which he claims is for medical and peaceful purposes but there is considerable evidence to the contrary from many sources (see links below) and combined with the recent military exercises in the Straits of Hormuz, a number of countries in the region as well as in the global community are extremely unsettled. Moreover Iran is still an exporter of trainers for violent extremist groups, terrorist action in other countries. Examples include: Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Somalia. Iraq's new best friend nation, Saudi Arabia is trying to diminish Iranian influence in Iraq by promising to provide money and personnel for "rebuilding Iraq" after the ISIS/Daesh "defeat". KSA also promised to pay Iraq's power bill to Iran. None of the actual building has started but there has been a shift toward warmer relations with the KSA.
On August 5, Iraq and Jordan signed a new agreement. "The agreement aims at exchanging expertise and information on border protection, improving intelligence capabilities, holding joint military exercises, research and technology development, combating all forms of terrorism, training and development in addition to strengthening field capabilities."
Once again there is political unrest although this time concurrently in both Iraq and Iran. The influence of Shia militias and politicians is widespread in both countries and their citizens outrage over corruption and restriction has visibly increased. The internet is the new change agent and force multiplier so both countries have tried to limit electricity and access at different times but thankfully, with limited success. The sanctions which come into effect today will be a heavier burden for the Iranians-but that is one of the desired effects.
Not only sanctions on gold, coal, minerals, aluminum and oil but on monetary transactions and the automotive sector will press further on an already burdened and discontented population. Scrutiny on banking transactions, bitcoin, forensic accounting for trade/aid deals which were used to disguise weapon deals; will increase especially after exposure in US courts of Peter Strzok, his father Peter Strzok Sr. and Paul Erickson who had decades of experience in the region. (see references below and watch you tube link)
Iraqi forces during a NATO training exercise in Amman, Jordan. Photo: Jake Tupman/NATO Channel
Players are choosing sides and preparing for the next phase of the "big game" which is a carry on from further north and what has been known as "The Great Game". But these are not games to the people and creatures who live, love and work here.
On a personal level, I have heard, met and seen more Iranians here in Erbil in the last month. There are also more American expats walking about at the ever expanding US Consulate in Erbil.
As one waiter commented on a heated discussion taking place at another table, "Why don't everybody just relax and drink coffee?" Yes, for now....why not? It seems we've seen something similar here before and it didn't turn out well. Perhaps, this time it will be different, God willing.
Included in this post is a remarkable photo taken in August, 1966 on the border desert area between Iraq and Iran when the "Asia Bus" used to take tourists from London to India and back. Wearing casual clothes was acceptable for women and men back then, as well as having your hair uncovered.
Maybe those freedoms will return. A different type of deja vue?!