Iran News ...


03/23/10

Iran Sees Gains in Iraq Election

By Mitra Farnik, Washington (Source: Mianeh)

 

It appears confident results will pave way for US military exit and empowerment of Iran's allies. Reaction to the results of the recent Iraqi election suggests that Tehran has been reassured that the future of Iraqi politics is effectively out of the control of the United States.

 


An Iraqi woman votes at a polling station in Tehran

 

It also suggests that Iran intends to remain fairly active in shaping the nature of the coalition that has yet to emerge from negotiations among the four leading Iraqi political blocs.

 

Tehran praised the provisional 62 per cent turnout as "an act of great courage" that could help improve democracy in Iraq, describing the elections a turning point in the fight against occupation and dictatorship.

 

But its preferred or hoped-for outcome seems clear. A headline in the hard-line Kayhan's March 10 issue - produced even before the announcement of partial election results - declared America Loses Again: The Shia Coalition Winner of Iraqi Elections.

 

Iran and Iraq fought a bitter eight-year war in the 1980s when Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein and share a long land border. Predominantly Shia Iran has traditionally sided with its co-religionists who form a majority in Iraq.

 

Iran can live with almost any outcome in Iraq so long as the results do not bring about instability and as such become an obstacle for the scheduled American troop withdrawal.

 

The Iranian political preference is the continuation of the current make-up of the government involving the two major Shia blocs, which won the majority of parliamentary seats in 2005, as a united bloc and the Kurdish bloc consisting of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party.

 

With Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law bloc in a tight race against former premier Ayad Allawi's National Iraqi list, Iraqiyya - which has attracted Sunni Arab votes along with those of secular-minded Shia - Tehran is closely watching not the national vote tally but the parliamentary seats allocated to Iraq's 18 provinces.

 

It knows very well that no matter which list receives the highest number of votes nationally, the president and then prime minister will be chosen by parties or blocs that form a coalition on the basis of agreeing on the leadership of particular individuals.

 

Tehran's interest lies in maintaining the status quo, with the Iraqi National Alliance - which consists of Iran's close allies the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, ISCI, the Sadrists and the Dawa Party - along with State of Law list and the Kurdish bloc once again uniting to form a government that shuts out some of the other players.

 

But this outcome is not assured and the uncertainty will ensure Iran's active involvement in the post-election manoeuvring is focused on prodding the Islamist Shia to remain united and lowering the chances of the more secular forces - Sunni or Shia - becoming part of the governing coalition.

 

Various factions in Iran share a fear of the re-emergence of Allawi as a significant political player in Iraq. Sirous Borna Boldaji, writing for the reformist website Iranian Diplomacy, sees the growing popularity of Allawi's Iraqiyya coalition as showing Iraqi nationalist and secular sentiment increasingly trumping religious affiliation. He wrote, "The fault lines which threw Iran and Iraq into constant conflict during Saddam Hussein's rule may re-emerge, albeit with less intensity."

 

Hardliners are also watching the fortunes of Iraqiyya closely but, rather than emphasising the nationalist and secular nature of the coalition, they accuse it of being the pawn of the US and its main Arab ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, which according to Iranian reporting has spent anywhere between 100 and 150 million US dollars in support of Allawi.

 

Writing for Sobh-e Sadegh, a weekly publication of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corp's political office, Hossein Omidi argues that the efforts of the US and its Arab allies are geared towards replacing the "religious Shia government" with one consisting of the "Allawi coalition and the Baathists".

 

With this objective in mind, Omidi said, the US and its allies tried hard to weaken Maliki's government, underwrite a campaign of violence, and create rifts among the Shia blocs as well as between the Shia and the Kurds.

 

Now that the campaign to catapult Allawi as a viable candidate for prime minister appears to have failed, he believes American attention will turn into pressuring Maliki into forming a coalition with Iraqiyya rather than other Shia blocs and the Kurds.

 

Tehran clearly hopes and expects Maliki will withstand these pressures. It also expects the new Iraqi parliament to resist the attempt by Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni who also ran as part of the Iraqiyya bloc, to unseat Jalal Talabani as the president of Iraq.

 

Iran is also playing a long game. Prior to the election, while the US was focused on cajoling the Iraqi parliament into finalising an election law, the Iranian government was already thinking about post-election manoeuvring and was focused on helping the increasingly bickering Shia parties to form a coalition.

 

Maliki's refusal to join a unified Shia bloc prevented Iran from being completely successful. Still, the effort seems to have paid off as the Iraqi National Alliance has reportedly done well enough to remain a sought-after coalition partner. Without the creation of the bloc, Iran's main ally in Iraq, ISCI, would probably have done too poorly to join the governing coalition.

 

Iran's ultimate aim in Iraq is to build strategic links to establish security as well as creating economic and cultural opportunities. This includes installing a new generation of friendly Iraqi elites who have no enmity towards Iran.

 

Iran also understands that institutionalising the power of Islamist Shia and defining a new role for them within Iraq requires their unity as well as the support of a regional power like Iran.

 

It is support that Iran is happy to continue to give.

 

About Mianeh: Mianeh is a new independent web-based initiative run as a project by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (iwpr.net) the award-winning non-profit media development organisation that works across the globe to platform local voices and promote international learning and engagement. Mianeh aims to be an open space for ideas, news and debate where writers in Iran can reach out to each other as well as to those outside the country who are interested in learning more about the vibrant and dynamic society that is Iran today.

... Payvand News - 03/23/10 ... --



comments powered by Disqus

Home | ArchiveContact | About |  Web Sites | Bookstore | Persian Calendar | twitter | facebook | RSS Feed


© Copyright 2010 NetNative (All Rights Reserved)