The Islamic Republic of Iran has brokered a deal between Nouri al-Maliki, Sadrist leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, involving secret talks with Syria, Lebanon's Hezbollah and the highest authorities in Shia Islam, according to details provided by senior officials in Iraq to The Guardian.
Why this is a surprise to anyone I don't know. Sadr didn't tuck tail and go off to ayatollah school in Iran for nothing, there were obviously some promises of some sort made. Iran has been meddling both politically and physically in Iraq for years, as mentioned in the article, the US military blames the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Al-Quds Brigades for causing more than one quarter of its combat casualties in Iraq throughout almost eight years of war.
According to the report, Iran began their campaign in early September:
At the time the US had only just withdrawn its last dedicated combat units from Iraq but left behind a political vacuum with no government in place after March elections delivered a seemingly irrevocably split parliament.
According to sources the Iranians saw their opportunity. [snip]
Within days of the withdrawal, Sadr, who lives in self-imposed exile in the Iranian city of Qom, was told by the Iranians to reconsider his position as a vehement opponent of Maliki. [snip]
The push initially came from the spiritual head of the Sadrist movement, Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri, who has been a godfather figure to the firebrand cleric for the past 15 years.
"He couldn't say no to him," said the official. "Then the Iranians themselves got involved."
Days after the Iranian move, an Iraqi push followed. Throughout September Maliki sent his chief of staff to Qom along with a key leader in his Dawa party, Abdul Halim al-Zuhairi. They were, according to the Guardian's source, joined by a senior figure in Lebanese Hezbollah's politburo, Mohamed Kawtharani, as well as arch-US foe General Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Al-Quds Brigades...
In the following three weeks, Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, met Bashar al-Assad at Damascus airport on his way to deliver a speech at the United Nations in New York.
The two-hour meeting was pivotal in changing Assad's view of Maliki.
One must wonder what went on during all these negotiations, what was given, what was promised, what are the future expectations and payoffs for the parties involved?
We are told that Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Lebanese Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, are also believed to have endorsed the Sadrist move with Nasrallah insisting all U.S. troops be out of Iraq by December 2011 in accordance with the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) between the U.S. and Iraq. Maliki apparently agreed, saying he will "never extend, or renew [any bases] or give any facilities to the Americans or British after the end of next year".
It must be noted here that Nouri al-Maliki's opposition Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite, -- who narrowly won the most seats in the March 7 vote with strong Sunni backing but did not get nearly enough to control the government outright -- accused Iran on Sunday of trying to destabilize Iraq and manipulate the political process
Allawi accused Iran of fomenting unrest in Iraq, Lebanon and among Palestinians. He said Mideast nations are "falling victim to ... terrorists who are definitely Iran-financed." (more)
"American policy inside Iraq has facilitated this Iranian takeover," said Allawi's deputy, Osama al-Najaifi. "They are now pulling out of Iraq and it appears their behaviour early in the summer was almost to appease Iran. This will create a disaster in the region, not just for Iraq, but for their interests as well. We have gone from being under US occupation to Iranian occupation."
It should make the West wonder who really has control of electing the new leader in Iraq, the people or Iraq's neighbors. Jordan's king Abdullah II refuses to endorse Iraq's prime minister for a second term.
It is interesting to note that Iran and Iraq have been at odds over their domestic oil reserve estimates. In the past, Saudi Arabia has been number one, with Iran number two. However, recent estimates by Iraq place that country at number two shifting Iran to number three. If the government in Iraq is Iran friendly with Iran making decisions behind the scenes, those decisions could extend to Iraq's oil reserves.
It should also be noted that Massoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Government and Hassan Danaeefar, Iran's ambasador to Iraq held separate meetings with the president, premier and head of the security department of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Government concerning the political situation and concern over recent incidents in Iran-Iraq border areas.
All this comes as new warnings are issued by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad for Americans, Westerners and journalises in Iraq. No word as to whether those threats are coming from Iranians or terrorists supported, trained, and armed by Iran. Also today Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced he is ready for new talks on his nuclear programs. Right!
... One horrifying rumor a few weeks ago held that Sadr’s price for his support was … control of one of the country’s security ministries; if that happened, with Defense or Interior in the hands of Shiite fanatics, presumably Sunnis would begin to bug out of the government in earnest. [SNIP]
... According to this NYT mini-bombshell from over the weekend, many of them have already gone back [to guns and bombs]: Supposedly “several thousand” Sunnis have quit their government positions and allied with Al Qaeda in Iraq out of fear or the promise of higher pay or both. Meanwhile, U.S. media has been reporting since the summer that Sadr’s Mahdi Army has started to reappear on Iraqi streets, this time casting themselves as a “social movement aiming to educate the young.” If that model — of a heavily-armed Iranian-backed Shiite militia bent on winning local hearts and minds through social programs — sounds familiar, there’s a good reason. Foreign Policy explained a few months ago in an article about Sadr entitled, “The King of Iraq” (Hot Air)