Allawi Front Runner to Lead Iraq After ElectionBy REUTERS
Published: December 17, 2004
Filed at 9:27 a.m. ET
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi may return to power with American blessing after next month's election, even if he does not score a major victory at the ballot box.
Iraqi officials say it is too early to predict who will be the country's next prime minister, but privately suggest that Allawi, a secular Shi'ite heading a list that includes several ministers from the U.S.-backed government, is considered the front runner if he wins a seat in the new National Assembly.
Allawi's return could mean more use of force to try to crush Sunni Muslim rebels and an economic policy that seeks production sharing deals with foreign firms to develop Iraq's oil fields.
``There is simply no one else on whom the assembly could reach consensus. Kurds would rather deal with Allawi than an Islamist Shi'ite, so would Sunnis. We also realize an Islamist Shi'ite prime minister is a red line for the Americans,'' said a senior official from a leading Shi'ite party.
``The Americans, the Kurds, and Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani have red lines and Allawi is positioned to take advantage.''
A Shi'ite election list drawn up under the auspices of Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shi'ite cleric, is expected to win most seats in the Jan. 30 election.
Candidates on Sistani's list include Islamist, secular and some independent candidates, but not Allawi. Its leaders have said they will seek consensus in the 275-member assembly, which will appoint a new government and have one year to draft a permanent constitution.
Under the postwar election system, Iraq will be treated as a single electoral district. The electorate will vote for lists of candidates and names high on the lists will have the best chances of winning seats in the assembly.
While some admire Allawi as a U.S.-backed strongman who could bring stability, violence has continued and Iraq has been hit by a fuel and electricity crisis during his term.
A U.S. official, who declined to be named, said he did not know of a deal to bring Allawi back, but said it was clear any Iraqi prime minister would have to be palatable to Washington.
Western diplomats in Baghdad say Allawi is Washington's favorite. But U.S. officials have been careful not to make their choice public for fear of tainting both Allawi, who worked with American intelligence during years in exile, and Iraq's much-touted transition to democracy.
``American officials frankly tell us they favor Allawi,'' one senior diplomat said. ``But his return is unlikely to help stem the violence. He has obviously not talked enough with the Sunnis, who are outside the election anyway.''
Among other names being touted in Baghdad are former nuclear scientist Hussein al-Shahristani and Finance Minister Adel Abdul Mehdi, who are in the top ten on Sistani's list.
But Mehdi's colleagues say his membership in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shi'ite party founded in Iran in 1982, limits his chances, especially given Washington's increasingly hardline tone toward Tehran, which it considers part of an ``axis of evil.''
Sistani likes Shahristani. But the former exile remains a relative unknown in Washington and Iraq's defense minister, allied to Allawi, this week accused him of being an Iranian agent. Other politicians dismissed that charge as ridiculous.
November 01, 2002
TEHRAN -- Donald Rumsfeld will take to hell his idea of regime change in Iran, charged former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani Friday, after the US defense secretary predicted an early overthrow of the Islamic regime by its own people.
"This minister (Rumsfeld) will take to hell his dream of seeing regime change" in Iran, Rafsanjani told thousands of faithful during Friday prayers in Tehran.
The crowd responded with "death to America, death to Israel!".
Rafsanjani, head of the powerful conservative-dominated Expediency Council, which arbitrates disputes over legislation, accused US leaders of wanting to undermine the 1979 Islamic revolution.
"But they have not yet understood the nature of our revolution and the links that unite the people to the clergy," he said.
Rafsanjani, a senior cleric, also issued a warning to the "very small minority inside the country whose eyes are turned towards the United States," saying they could only express themselves because of the "leniency" of the regime.
He added that the US administration was "duped" by the strength of this minority.
Rumsfeld said on a radio talkshow Wednesday he believed the regime in Iran would tumble from within, in response to a question asking whether Washington planned to move on to Iran after toppling President Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq.
"I suspect that during my lifetime we're going to see a change in that situation over there and that the young people and the women and the people who believe in freedom will overthrow that cleric government and it will fall in some way of its own weight," Rumsfeld, 70, added.
The defense secretary called Iran "an interesting place" controlled by "a very small clique of clerics," and insisted the "women and the young people don't agree with how it's being run."
His statement appeared to signal that the administration saw no need to resort to overt or covert military measures to topple the regime in Tehran, which US President George W. Bush said in a speech in January formed part of an "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea.
Iranian officials have been expressing heightened concern that their country will be sandwiched between US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, if Washington decides to overthrow Saddam by force.
Defense Minister Rear-Admiral Ali Shamkhani aired these worries on Wednesday, when he warned Iranians to be prepared for the possibility of a US attack.
"The US government wants to reorganize the region and as a consequence Iran could constitute a target," Shamkhani said. "If the Americans are in both Afghanistan and Iraq, this represents a significant challenge."
Just in: Beware dangerous radiation emanating from infidel women. Film at ten.
Here is that article you found nw_az! Thanks for the mail.
Iran arrests 'spy' faking nuclear company
Iran's Intelligence Ministry has announced the arrest of a "spy"
accused of setting up a fake nuclear company as part of a
international plot to damage the Islamic republic's reputation.
"Asghar C, who has a past of spying for foreigners, was seeking
centrifuges with a fictitious contract and under the name of a
company," the Intelligence Ministry said.
The ministry says that by pretending to manufacture centrifuges
machines that can enrich uranium to make both fuel for a
reactor or the explosive core of a nuclear device - "this
was trying to damage Iran's international commitments."
It says the man "was arrested and handed over to the courts."