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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Has Iran consolidated influence on Iraq Shiite Islamic Parties?

March 7th, 2010, may be the day that highlights how much the future of Iraq lies with Iran, with the influence that Iran has gained over Iraq's religious Shia parties.


Not know squat about the history of Iraqi internal politics, but a few names of the key players? Who can blame you, it's a maze!

Here is my (non-expert) shorthand, for you.

Sectarianism, as it has developed (including pre-invasion positioning!), has played into Iranian hands, primarily by consolidating Iranian influence among the Shiite Islamic political parties.

  • First, the constitution of 2005 apparently pushes sectarianism by apportionment structures that prevent strong central government, i.e. that force a national power-sharing. With the imminent withdrawal of the U.S., there seems to be little leverage to get the constitution to evolve, to reflect possibilities for Iraq rather than yesterdays irreconcilable realities. As I understand it - and I could be wrong - it is a kind of structural bias that doesn't bode well, that tips the playing field.
  • Second, in a classic short-term versus long-term bind, the U.S. (and the Kurds) had a role in supporting the rise of the pro-Iranian SCIRI (now just 'SICI') and putting down the pro-national Sadrists. Now, Sadr's nationalist fire is almost completely neutralized by Iran: he lives there and cannot return home, under threat of a warrant for his arrest.
  • Third, the most pro-Iranian coalition has been successful in politicizing for potential electoral gain the sectarian issue of de-baathification, while simultaneously cutting out many centrists/secularists from any political roles. [We know it has worked but not by how much, because the votes aren't in, yet.]
  • Forth, the Iranian influence on the Iraqi National Alliance (the Watani list or INA or NIA) appears to be consolidated. The Iranian-elements have moved in on the coalition's second-tier leadership roles and so forth and the party's creed has been aligned to mimic Iranian concepts, even dropping explicit reference to Najef... The coordination-consultation with Tehran, not just Najef, is obvious and profound. The shove out of the main Daawa party from the coalition last year, 'purifies' and consolidates.

The Daawa party (the main part of Nouri al-Malaki's new 'State of Law' coalition), with a very long history in Iraqi politics and no philosophical ally of the Iranian Revolution, appears to be ... suffering the burdens of governance, in a situation that is rife with non-cooperation, corruption, and a long list of problems. It's also been fractured by political rivalries. However, it gained support in 2009 elections, but the broader coalition that brought it to power fractured under Iranian 'supervision' last year, probably because of a reach-out for Sunni participation, for a true 'national coalition'.

The relatively secularist alternatives, the Iraqiyya list or National Movement (includes Iyad Allawi's group), is small, smaller than I realized, but has polled well, recently, despite being saddled with baggage related to the invasion and the 'battle for Fallujah'.

Separately, the Kurdish alliances are following the pattern of increased fragmentation, with four coalitions now contesting, rather than the big two (PUK and PDK). I have no idea with whom the Kurdish parties would align in a new government. Relations have been strained with al-Maliki and the Kurds have natural and historical 'ties' to Iran.

I cannot add too much color on the Sunni participation or the likelihood that a Sunni bloc might join a new coalition government - offhand, it seems more like various Sunni politicians have made it to the lists of other coalition groups.