OpinionIran in the World PressShia victory is blow to US line on Iran's...

Shia victory is blow to US line on Iran’s N-arms

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Financial Times: The victory by Shia clerics in Iraq’s elections
is likely to complicate US efforts to press Iran to dismantle its nuclear programme.
The United Iraqi Alliance is dominated by two political parties formerly based in Iran, and many members of the bloc still have close ties with their Shia neighbour. Financial Times

By Charles Clover in Baghdad

The victory by Shia clerics in Iraq’s elections is likely to complicate US efforts to press Iran to dismantle its nuclear programme.

The United Iraqi Alliance is dominated by two political parties formerly based in Iran, and many members of the bloc still have close ties with their Shia neighbour.

One of the parties is Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), whose militia, the Badr Brigades, was trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Daawa, the other Islamist party to make up the bulk of the Alliance candidate list, was also based mainly in Tehran.

Their success makes it likely that Iraq’s future prime minister will be from one of the two groups.

Sciri and Daawa members insist they are not beholden to Iran, but nonetheless feel kinship with the former exile home. One key Alliance politician warned that the US could not count on their support against Iran if Washington or its allies struck Iran’s nuclear facilities, something the US has not ruled out.

“From the standpoint of a state, we have no role in relations between America and Iran. But from the standpoint of a people, we will always stand with those that face aggression,” said Jalal al-Din al-Sagheer, an Alliance candidate and member of Sciri.

The presence of an elected, Shia-dominated government in Baghdad could give Iran a key bargaining chip in its constant struggle with the US and the EU to win the right to enrich uranium, which Tehran claims is for peaceful purposes, but Washington fears is part of a covert nuclear weapons programme.

The US and the European Union have been seeking to convince Iran to destroy facilities used to enrich uranium, which they fear could be part of a nuclear weapons programme, which Iran has denied.

Iran clearly sees Iraq’s Shia as natural allies: during the parliamentary campaign in Iraq last month, Iranian television carried advertisements for the Alliance, and encouraged Iraqi expatriates in Iran to vote in absentee elections.

“We certainly hope that the problems between the US and Iran do not reach the level of military force,” said Jawad al-Maliki, a member of Daawa. “We hope our role can be that of problem solver, and not to interfere in these questions. We have enough problems already in Iraq.”

US officials have long alleged that Iran has been interfering in Iraqi politics to support their clients, mainly Sciri, but also Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia radical preacher. Iran’s government vehemently den- ies any interference in Iraq.

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