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Is Iran Pulling the Strings in Iraq? Not Quite
October 21, 2010
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 reelected – 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 Moqtada al-Sadr to throw his weight behind Maliki, whom 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 Maliki on Monday. Cue the “Who lost Iraq?” chorus in Washington.
No question the U.S. has struggled in vain to get its own favorite, former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, into power. That fits the pattern of democratic politics in Iraq since the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Washington’s warnings against Sadr being given a significant stake in a new government appear likely to be ignored – although Maliki is expected to limit Sadr’s supporters’ access to the crucial security ministries, where the Sadrists’ history of violence against Sunnis and against U.S. forces would be cause for alarm. And just as with every elected Iraqi government since the fall of Saddam, a new Maliki administration will be closer to Iran than it is to Washington. If so, however, that outcome will be dictated by the established patterns of Iraqi democracy more than by external meddling.
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