“Is Iran Pulling the Strings in Iraq? Not Quite”

Time.com – Excerpts: The fact that Iran has blessed a second term of office for Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki — support that could help get him re-elected — is being treated in some corners as a grim and unexpected turn of events. No sooner had American combat troops departed, goes the story, than Iran moved into the vacuum to install its man in power, ordering the radical, anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to throw his weight behind al-Maliki, whom al-Sadr detests. “May God get rid of America in Iraq so that its people’s problems are solved,” said Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, hosting al-Maliki on Monday. Cue the “Who lost Iraq?” chorus in Washington.
Tehran may have greater influence than Washington does, but it is not able to script Baghdad’s political process. Iran, after all, wouuld have had the Shi’ite parties run as a single coalition, which would have finished way ahead of Allawi’s. Nor is that influence anything new: Iran’s key ally at the time, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, as well as al-Maliki’s Dawa Party, were included in the interim government assembled by the U.S. in 2003, and all three democratic elections have seen the Shi’ite Islamist parties emerge dominant. Even al-Sadr’s kingmaker role is nothing new: al-Maliki became Prime Minister in May 2006 only with the backing of al-Sadr’s parliamentary bloc.
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