Middle East

Iran pushes ‘stop the steal’ conspiracy over Iraq election – analysis

Iran has taken a page from the playbook of post-election chaos in the US last year. Its Tasnim media group has said that Iraq’s recent elections have been manipulated and that the results of the elections should be called into question. An analyst has argued that “cyber” may have been used to “control” the process electronically. 
In short, Iran is moving to “stop the steal.” Much like in the US after the election in 2020 when some argued that voting machines had received ballot “dumps” or other conspiracies were trotted out, Iran is concerned that something happened in Iraq that led to its favored candidates not performing as well as expected.  

“There is evidence of a change in the statistics announced by the Iraq Elections Commission, and among them there are those who seek to change the political pole of Iraq in their favor with the agreement of Washington to change the outcome of the election,” Iranian media reported.  

The conspiracy is clear, or so Iran thinks. Washington has sought to influence the elections. This is reminiscent of claims that Russia meddled in US elections in 2016. Iran has learned, it seems from the West, that the best way to undermine elections or the aftermath of them is to spread various rumors and stories.

“These parties want to establish a government that looks after the United States in Iraq, and the evidence shows that the election results are controlled by the United States and its allies via satellite – and the voting results after reaching the satellite and resubmitting it,” Iranian media said. 

Manual recounts are now under way in Iraq. Five provinces have been affected. Tasnim News says that there was “manipulation of the UAE in the Iraqi election voting servers in favor of a particular current.” In this secondary conspiracy it is not just the hands of Washington stuffing electronic ballots, but the Gulf is also involved.

 The finger of an Iraqi election official opens a device to start the legislative elections in Iraq, in Sadr City, Baghdad, October 10, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/WISSAM AL-OKAILI) The finger of an Iraqi election official opens a device to start the legislative elections in Iraq, in Sadr City, Baghdad, October 10, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/WISSAM AL-OKAILI)

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IRAQ HAS a new biometric election system that is designed to cut down on corruption. But the pro-Iranian Fatah Alliance did not perform as well as it did in the last elections. The alliance is made up of pro-Iran militias, many of whom were involved in suppressing protests in 2019.  

“An informed source said that after the recount of votes by the High Electoral Commission, the seats of the Al-Fatah coalition have reached 21… and the seats of the State of Law coalition have reached 40,” the report says in Tasnim. Indeed, it seems Iran has sent some of its IRGC heavies to Iraq to make sure the recounts end up as they should – like Iran’s version of Tammany Hall.   

“The solution to the crisis of the election results is for the votes to be counted manually in the presence of representatives of political groups, as the UAE has manipulated the servers of the voting machines to change the results in favor of political groups that are projecting to dissolve the popular uprising,” a tweet by one commentator said. “Undoubtedly, any group that opposes the manual counting of votes is complicit in the election fraud.”

This means that the method of Iran and its operatives appears to be to undermine the election results through a sort of “stop the steal” campaign in the media. Iran and its allies in Iraq then demand manual counts and claim those who don’t accept them are involved in fraud. Then, miraculously, the recounts will find more votes for Iran’s allies.  
In the aftermath of the US election in 2020, major social media outlets attempted to reduce the conspiracies about election fraud that were running rampant. It is unclear whether social media will similarly clamp down on Iran’s attempt to muddy the waters in Iraq. What is clear is that Iran seems to be preparing a full court press to alter the election results in Baghdad, or at least tweak them a bit to get the results it wants.  
It is believed that the IRGC Quds Force has sent a delegation to Baghdad which will work to form the next Iraqi government by bringing together the pro-Iranian groups like Fatah Alliance and Nouri al-Malaki’s State of Law Party. Maliki was viewed as a sectarian thug when he ran Iraq prior to the war on ISIS. Oddly, his thuggish behavior at the time was encouraged partly by Washington which, under the former Obama administration, believed Iraq needed a strong man.

It turned out Maliki’s “strong man” qualities were merely a stand-in for Iran and he alienated half the country, driving many into the hands of the Sunni extremists who gathered around ISIS. He also alienated Kurds, whose autonomous region then sought an independence referendum. The long tentacles of Maliki’s sectarianism can be seen in Kirkuk where security forces harassed Kurds after the election.

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