Iraq Shiite win may bring 'Super Iran': critics
BAGHDAD, Iraq A resounding Shiite victory in next month's elections will bring Iraq closer to Tehran, forming a "Super Iran" that could change the face of the Middle East, critics say.
But others discount such claims as exaggerations and say Iraq, a diverse country of Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and Christians, will never let any outside player, particularly Iran's hard-line religious theocracy, dictate its future.
Views vary dramatically over what shape Iraq's political future will take following nationwide elections scheduled for Jan. 30, but few dispute that this Shiite-majority country's relations with its eastern neighbor which is ruled by Shiite ayatollahs will grow closer.
"Welcome to the new Iraq, this is the reality of Iraq where the majority are Shiite," said National Security adviser Mouwaffaq al-Rubaie, a candidate on the 228-member United Iraqi Alliance coalition embraced by Iraq's top Shiite cleric and featuring a wide range of Iraqi ethnic and religious groups, including some pro-Iranian Shiites.
While much attention centers on U.S. interference in Iraq through invading the country and occupying it with thousands of troops, a different struggle is going on between ordinary Iraqis one that looks set to re-map the national and regional political landscapes.
With Shiites accounting for 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people, the Islamic sect that was long suppressed under Saddam Hussein and crushed in a 1991 uprising is expected to dominate next month's polls.
This may embolden Shiites here and throughout the Middle East, some regional analysts say. But Iraq's likely political shift is also stirring fears of the spread of an Iranian-brand of Shiite power throughout the Sunni Muslim-dominated region.
Jordan's King Abdullah, a pro-U.S. Sunni Muslim, this month said Iraq's elections could lead to the establishment of a hard-line Shiite regime based on the model in Iran, a country the United States accuses of sponsoring terrorism and trying to build nuclear weapons.
Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite running a separate ticket to the al-Sistani-backed one, accuses Iran of opposing Iraq's postwar reconstruction. His defense minister labels Iran as his country's "number one enemy" and calls the United Iraqi Alliance the "Iranian list" that would install a rule of "turbaned clerics" in Iran if it succeeds in the polls.
Al-Rubaie discounts such fears, saying any new government will demand security cooperation from Iran while at the same time seeking close relations with its neighbor.
"If we have any serious evidence that the Iranians are smuggling arms or interfering in our security and not helping in controlling security, Iraq will have very serious issues with Iran," he said, adding that he would quit the alliance if it seeks to adopt an Iranian-like government.
Views among Iraqi Shiites toward Iran range from hate to devotion. Despite 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people being Shiite, many harbor resentment toward Iran over the bloody 1980-88 war between the countries in which 1 million people died. Many Iraqis also accuse Iran of sponsoring this country's rampant insurgency.
But many Iraqi Shiites, who were suppressed under Saddam's three-decade rule, also look to Iran's Shiite establishment for religious guidance.
This dichotomy is fueling election campaigns of various parties, which began Wednesday, including the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of independents and political parties dominated by Shiites both pro-Iranian and nationalists along with Sunnis, Kurds and other minorities.
Key among its parties is the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, a group closely allied to Iran and led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the alliance's top candidate whose comments about Iraq being responsible for compensating Iran for their war in the 1980s angered many Iraqis. Al-Hakim had lived in exile in Iran, where he led SCIRI's armed wing, the Iran-based Badr Brigade, during Saddam's rule.
Al-Hakim's prominence on the list and his close relations with Iran give ammunition to many secular and non-Shiites to attack his coalition, saying Iraq's political future will mirror Iran's Shiite-run establishment if he and his supporters gain power in Iraq's 275-member National Assembly.
Such a scenario worries people like Iraqi-born Mustafa Alani, director of national security at the Dubai-based regional think-tank the Gulf Research Center.
"The nightmare scenario in the region is the election of an Iranian-influenced Shiite government in Iraq will lead to the creation of a 'Super Iran' emerging as a regional superpower" says Alani. "We are talking about a huge shift in the region's power balance."
Such a development will force Arab Gulf states, like Sunni Muslim-ruled Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, to "move closer together and with the United States to guarantee their own protection," he says.
But Entifadh Qanbar, spokesman for one of the United Iraqi Alliance parties, the Iraqi National Congress Party, says that although pro-Iranian lawmakers may win some National Assembly seats, most will go to politicians working for a secular government free from outside influence.
"I don't see a danger of a religious Shiite government coming to power in Iraq," Qanbar said. "There will be serious concerns if we do follow Iran's model."
MP: Iran will never recognize Israel
Dec 18, 2004, 14:53
Iranian MP took a swipe at the EU, ruling out a stumbling bloc set by western negotiators Saturday.
European countries should learn that Iran will never recognize Israel, head of national security and foreign policy commission of parliament Alaadin Boroujerdi said.
Reffering to the European's draft resolution, Boroujerdi said that the Islamic Republic of Iran will never recognize the Zionist regime and will never accept any pre-condition in this regard for continuation of negotiations.
EU states have set Israel's official recognition as a pre-condition before giving a go ahead for the ongoing talks.
He added that Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Ageny was the main precondition set for Iran which has been fully committed by the regime.