House Republicans Want To Label Iraqi Leader as 'Tool of Iranian Influence'

Iraq's leaders enabling Iran to foment terrorism across the Middle East

Faiq Zidan (@UNODC X)
June 27, 2024

House appropriators are eyeing a landmark measure that would name and shame a top Iraqi leader for serving as a corrupt "tool of Iranian influence" in Iraq, according to advance information about the proposal obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Rep. Mike Waltz (R., Fla.), a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, is set to introduce on Thursday an amendment to the foreign appropriations bill that would designate Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council and its president, Faiq Zidan, as Iranian-controlled assets. The measure is expected to garner bipartisan support and make its way into the final legislation.

If adopted, the measure will mark the first time that Congress, and therefore the Biden administration, is calling out by name the Iraqi leaders who are enabling Iran to overtake Baghdad's government and use Iraq to foment terrorism. Congressional sources said they are counting on the measure to serve as a wake-up call to Iraq's government as the country morphs into an Iranian client state.

Zidan and his judicial council are the leading forces advancing Iran's interest in Iraq and helping Tehran's militia groups gain a foothold in the country. His court is behind a contested February 2022 ruling that required a two-thirds majority to select the president of Iraq. This decision effectively prevented Iraq's anti-Iran elements, such as the Kurds, from forming a more U.S.-friendly government.

Waltz and congressional sources working on the issue say the effort is a first step toward isolating Iran's assets in the Iraqi government and walking back the hardline regime's growing influence.

"The Iranian regime needs to understand the U.S. Congress won't allow the Ayatollah to turn Iraq into a client state," Waltz told the Free Beacon. "Iranian sympathizers in Iraq like Faiq Zaydan and others should take note."

For the last several years, Iran has quietly worked to co-opt Iraqi leaders and use them to wage influence in the country's governing coalition, with little response from the Biden administration. In the face of congressional warnings, the United States has engaged with Iraq's government and pursued policies that have done little to drive Baghdad away from Tehran.

"Through 'soft war' and the use (and misuse) of the legal system and courts, the coalition of [Iranian] militias has hit upon a winning combination that largely uses non-kinetic tools to build a trifecta of power that comprises the judiciary, civilian and military sides of the executive branch, as well as the legislature," the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) think tank wrote in a 2023 analysis of the situation. Through this effort, Iran effectively created "regime change" in Iraq.

Zidan has served as a centerpiece of this strategy.

His 2022 ruling "shifted the goalposts for government formation, making it almost impossible to form a government without a super-majority, including the [Iranian] militias and the SCF," a block of Shia Muslims loyal to Tehran, according to WINEP. This decision marked "the turning on its head of democracy in Iraq and a return to the minority rule last experienced under [Saddam Hussein's] regime."

Iran has used its power in Iraq to politically isolate the Kurdish population, a U.S. ally in the region, and use the country as a staging ground for terrorist operations.

Waltz and his GOP colleagues on the Foreign Affairs Committee warned last year that Iraq is "on the verge of being lost to Iran," and the situation has only grown worse since.

Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government "has served as one of the United States' most reliable partners in the Middle East, yet is being economically strangled, politically and legally pressured … and militarily threatened by Iran and Iran-backed elements in Baghdad," the lawmakers wrote in September 2023.