Massive protests have erupted in Iraq and Lebanon in recent weeks and they deal a blow to the regional strategy of the Iranian mullahs who have spent billions of dollars to turn both countries into vassal states.

Iran’s regime now finds itself in new battlefields. This at a time when the regime, wobbling at its knees under harsh economic sanctions, is unable to pay its proxies in the region and is facing growing dissent at home with daily popular protests from a restless society on the brink of eruption.

In 2011, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its proxy Hizbollah helped Assad’s regime to turn the nascent Syrian revolution into a bloody civil war. 

Today Iraqi and Lebanese people fed up with their politicians have taken to the streets to protest against the political establishment, which is not only riddled with corruption but also seems moribund and incapable of finding real solutions to address the different crises in these countries. Millions of Iraqis do not have access to adequate healthcare, education, clean water and electricity while the country is the second-largest oil exporter in the world.

Snipers and gunmen have shot many protesters but Iraqi officials have taken no responsibility for the killing of at least 200 people in Shi’ite cities. 
Reports from these areas reveal that Iran-backed militants have fired on protesters who chant against Iran’s presence in the country. 

The current Iraqi government is a coalition between Iran’s allies such as impulsive cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who leads parliament’s largest bloc, and Hadi al-Amiri, leader of a parliamentary alliance of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias that holds the second-largest number of seats in the Parliament.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is under pressure to resign. His Lebanese counterpart Saad Hariri left office last Wednesday.

After spending days in Iran, Mr al-Sadr returned to Iraq and joined Mr al-Amiri’s plan to remove Mr Mahdi in order to mollify protesters. 

Alas, in both countries, deep states secure the Iranian mullahs’ interests. The IRGC has funded and armed many militants groups, some of whom are listed as terrorist organisations by the UK and the US.

However the US has designated the IRGC as a terrorist entity while dozens of cross-party MPs at Westminster including from SNP have urged the UK government to do the same.

The Iraqi national army is completely marginalized while the IRGC’s Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani plays a pivotal role in governing 
the country. 

Failing to address the Iraqi people’s just demands will most likely draw the country into a bloody proxy war between regional powers, which not only will disrupt the global oil market but will leave a vacuum for ISIS as 
well as welcoming Russia to the Persian Gulf.

Although Iran’s opponents in Iraq are not well-organised they are 
armed, which means war will approach fast if Iran’s proxies continue to terrorise protesters.

The US and the UK overthrew Saddam but instead of getting democracy, Iraq’s society has been sunk in Iran’s sectarianism. 

As President Trump’s Middle East policy fails, his administration has yet to take practical actions. 

But US officials have criticised Iran’s destructive regional behaviour.

“The Iraqi and Lebanese people want their countries back. They are discovering that the Iranian regime’s top export is corruption, badly disguised as revolution. Iraq and Lebanon deserve to set their own courses free from @khamenei_ir’s meddling.” Secretary Pompeo tweeted. 

The same story is happening in Lebanon. A state within the state by Iran’s proxy, Hizbollah, has paralyzed Mr Hariri’s reforms. 

Saad Hariri is the son of former prime minister Rafic Hariri who was assassinated by Hizbollah in 2005. 

Mr Hariri resigned and has called for an early national election but Iran’s proxy allies have expressed their objections as protesters throughout the country criticise their role.

Iran funds and arms Hizbollah but it has had financial difficulties as the Iranian mullahs’ financial support has significantly lowered due to sanctions. 

Indeed Hizbollah is in a dilemma whether to take risks and accept calls for an early election or crush the peaceful protests. In the meantime it is trying to start war with Israel to divert attention from its impasse.

In any scenario in both backyards, Iran’s regime needs to defend its interests as one of its fundamental pillars is exporting terrorism to neighbouring countries in order to deflect from its domestic crisis and unpopularity. 

President Bush and Tony Blair destroyed the bulwark (Saddam) against Iran’s expansionism, President Obama gifted Iraq to Tehran and President Trump’s policy is restricted to economic sanctions.

Cutting Iran’s hands from Iraq and Lebanon prevents at least another bloody war but seemingly the EU and the UK are not ready as they still back the flawed nuclear agreement, which provides the IRGC billions of pounds to rebuild and arm its proxies. 

- Hamid Bahrami is a former political prisoner from Iran. Now living in 
Glasgow, he is a human rights and political activist.