Iranian sway in Iraq laid bare as top general meets politicians after election

Iranian sway in Iraq laid bare as top general meets politicians after election

Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani will hold talks with Iraqi politicians today to try and form a pro-Iranian government.

Muqtadr Sadr

Photo: Reuters

Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani will hold talks with Iraqi politicians today to try and form a pro-Iranian government, one week after the May 12 election.

In the kingmaker position is populist-nationalist cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr’s coalition. So far, with 90% of the vote counted, Al-Sadr’s grouping is ahead of Iranian and American-backed candidates, including incumbent PM Haider Al-Abadi.

Al-Sadr, who once fought the Americans post-invasion, believes Iraq should be free of all foreign interference in its affairs. He has also condemned Iran’s interference in Syria and Iraq.

The worst result for Iran would be an independent Baghdad cooperating with Tehran’s arch rival Saudi Arabia and its allies. Although a Shia cleric himself, Al-Sadr’s outreach to Sunnis via his cross-sectarian coalition has won him favour in Riyadh.

Expect General Soleimani to unite blocs led by current second-placed Haidi Al-Ameri, ex-PM Nouri Al-Malaki and others into a pro-Iranian government. However, not all Shia parties involved are pro-Iranian. Many politicians ran on cross-sectarian secular platforms such as tackling corruption and improving relations with Sunni-Arab neighbours, including Saudi Arabia. This suits PM Al-Abadi and Al-Sadr’s politics much more than the traditional sectarian politics of the pro-Tehran blocs.

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