Friday, May 18, 2007


Iraqi Shiite political factions divided over Iran-U.S. talks

Region, Security, Politics
(Gulf News) - Experts expect talks soon between Americans and Iranians on improving security and stability in Iraq. These talks are backed by Shiite parties in the Iraqi government especially the ruling coalition led by Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, a prominent political and religious figure in Iraq, who called for establishing such meetings between the two estranged countries.
Hassan Al Taee, leader in a nationalist party in Baghdad, told Gulf News: "Al Hakim aims at creating objective conditions for establishing a Shiite self-autonomy region in the middle and south of Iraq. "Al Hakim knows his aspiration clashes with the continuation of US-Iranian conflict because Americans would not allow establishing an Iraqi sectarian territory with tolerable ties with Iran, in the light of power struggle in the region."
Al Taee added: "At the other end, Shiite leader Moqtada Al Sadr's supporters are not satisfied with any US-Iranian talks because it means hindering Iranians' support to Shiite armed militias in Iraq." Esmail Al Jaf, a researcher in the political affairs told Gulf News : "Clearly there is a cleavage amid Shiites concerning US-Iranian dialogue. I think some Shiite parties want to be in reckoning with their rivals by supporting such talks.
"Recently, we witnessed few attacks conducted by the Mehdi Army against offices of the Supreme Council led by Al Hakim in the Sadr neighbourhood and in Diwaniya."
Topics like the Mehdi Army and the Iranian support will occupy top positions at these security talks. Americans accuse Iran of backing and harbouring hundreds of Mehdi members in camps belonging to Iranian Revolutionary Guard on the Iraqi-Iranian border. Iran denies the allegations. The American army has repeatedly displayed captured Iranian weapons and arrested cells linked to the Mehdi army who use such weapons, specifically highly explosive devices used to attack armoured American rangers in Baghdad and other Iraqi areas.
Sunni Arabs hold deep suspicions about the US-Iranian talks. They fear that it will harm their political rights.
On the other hand, Baathists are extremely concerned because it weakens their attempts in portraying Iran's vigorous influence and threat in Iraq thereby forcing Americans to accept Baath role in the political life and decision-making process within the Iraqi national reconciliation framework.
Eyad Mousa, member of the dissolved Baath Party, told Gulf News: "Al Hakim sought desperately for US-Iranian dialogue to block Baathists return because Baath is the only Iraqi peer against Iranian influence in the region."

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