Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Some Fear the US is Handing Iraq to Iran

Iran may sway Iraq elections, some fear: "Iran may sway Iraq elections, some fear

The New York Times
December 15, 2004
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- On a list of 228 candidates submitted by a powerful Shiite-led political alliance to Iraq's electoral commission last week, Abdulaziz al-Hakim's name was entered as No. 1. It was the clearest indication yet that in the upcoming January elections, with Iraq's Shiite majority likely to heavily outnumber Sunni voters, al-Hakim may emerge as the country's most powerful political figure.

Al-Hakim is a preeminent example of a class of Iraqi Shiite leaders with close ties to Iran's ruling ayatollahs. His political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was founded in Tehran.

The question of Iranian influence will weigh heavily as election campaigning formally begins today among more than 230 parties and political groups that have entered lists of candidates.

Ghazi al-Yawer, the Sunni Arab sheik who was named Iraq's interim president, and King Abdullah of Jordan have both sounded warnings over the past week.

In a BBC interview Monday in London, al-Yawer cited reports that Iran had pushed up to a million people across the 900-mile border with Iraq in a bid to influence the elections, and that Iranian money was flowing covertly to Shiite religious groups competing in the election.

"There are some elements in Iran playing a role in trying to influence the elections," he said.

For the United States, and for Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which have Sunni Muslim majorities, the prospect of al-Hakim and his associates coming to power raises in stark form the brooding issue of Iran's future influence in Iraq.

And among Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, the fear of a Shiite-led government heavily influenced by Iran has helped drive a powerful insurgency."

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