Iraq must free itself from Iranian influence through national elections in order to preserve its sovereignty, an Iraqi lawmaker said.
“Our compass is clear,” Ayad Jamal Aldin, whose Ahrar party is contesting parliamentary seats in the nationwide vote set for March 7, said today in an interview in London. “The real danger in Iraq is Iran. It controls Iraq with a firm fist.”
Senior U.S. officials repeatedly have accused Iran of fomenting violence in Iraq by equipping and financing militants who have killed American forces. The number two U.S. commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Charles Jacoby, yesterday said that he has detected Iran’s sway in Iraq’s political, military and economic domains.
This is something I've been worried about at least since spring 2008 when A-jad first got the red carpet-treatment in US-protected Baghdad -- a sharp slap in the US face according to my lights. Of course, my conservative brethren disagreed -- either ignoring the visit altogether, or dismissing it as a "debacle for Iran" (Amir Taheri in the New York Post), or "ultimately a failure" (Abe Greenwald at Commentary's blog Contentions). Abe went on to add:
But Ahmadinejad was deprived of what he wanted most: a picture with Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. This would have advertised solidarity between Shi’ite Iran and the most important Shi’ite in Iraq. Though Diana cites the fact that al-Sistani still has an Iranian passport as evidence of the Iran-Iraq romance, al-Sistani seems to feel otherwise. He cited “scheduling conflicts” and sent Ahmadinejad back to Iran with nothing but a very dull razor in hand. The U.S., however, is still in Iraq, fighting the good fight, forging legitimate ties with a potentially powerful ally, and reestablishing throughout the region what had all but disappeared: American credibility.
Good old dear buddy Sistani -- he whom the US punditocracy long ago anointed as Nobel Prize material, from Thomas Friedman to National Review. (As NR's editors memorably noted: "In a better world, Sistani would have a Nobel Peace Prize.") The Grand Old Ayatollah pops up again in this Bloomberg interview with Aldin, the anti-Iranian Iraqi politician:
“The Iranian regime will continue to be a problem with a nuclear weapon or not, with interference in Iraq or not,” Aldin said. “The problem is that the regime believes it represents God. If this goes unchecked, its influence will extend to Morocco.”
The U.S. can help “liberate” Iraq from Iran by admitting that it erred in backing Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shiite cleric in Iraq, after the 2003 invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, Aldin said.
That'll be the day.
In the last parliamentary vote, in 2005, the National Iraqi Alliance, a religious Shiite-led coalition endorsed by al-Sistani that had strong ties with Iran, took the most seats.
“The Americans allowed him to have a role and that was one of their biggest mistakes,” Aldin said. “It was through al- Sistani that Iran was able to invade Iraq.”
Zounds. Is the man saying Sistani might have pulled a fast one on conservatives?
Aldin, a 48-year-old Shiite Muslim cleric, says his party wants to tackle corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated nation for all Iraqis. He also wants a secular state.
Aldin said the platform reflects a more widespread shift in Iraqi politics away from religion and sectarianism toward secularism and nationalism. The trend may boost U.S. hopes that a stable government will emerge from the vote that will be able to create peace and clear the way for a planned withdrawal of American combat troops in August 2010.
Ahrar was formed in 2004. Its 1,200 party members include Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish and Turkmen representatives, Aldin said. Among them are university professors, social activists and football players. Aldin said he thinks his party can win at least 35 seats in the 325-seat strong assembly. ...
Lots of luck.