Iranian regime pressing its Iraqi allies to back Maliki as Prime Minister

Iranian regime has sent a harsh message to Shi’ite allies in Iraq, demanding they support the candidacy of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, the Arab daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat has reported.

According to the report, based on an anonymous source in the Islamist Iraqi National Alliance (INA) led by Sayyed Ammar Al-Hakim, the Iranian regime message directed their Shi’ite partners in Iraq to accept Al-Maliki’s candidacy “even if he hit you over the head.”

The report added that Iranian regime authorities have prevented Muqtada Al-Sadr, a member of the INA currently, from traveling to the city of Irbil in northern Iraq for political meetings. This is presumed to be a punitive measure for his rejection of Al-Maliki and apparent support for his rival Iyad ‘Alawi.
“Iran is worried that ‘Alawi represents mainly Sunni interests in Iraq, whereas Al-Maliki is better for Shi’ites,” Ali Al-Saffar, a Middle East analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit told.

“Iran believes that the premiership of ‘Alawi would mean the weakening of the Shi’ite stronghold of Iraq over time.”

“‘Alawi has done little to alleviate the Iranian fears,” he added. “Although he himself is Shi’ite, most of the people surrounding him are Sunni.”

“As far as Iran is concerned, a partnership between ‘Alawi and Al-Maliki is the worst case scenario, because it would mean that the ruling coalition was independent of Iran’s Islamist supporters in the Iraqi National Alliance.”

However, an alliance between ‘Alawi and Al-Maliki would make sense, said Al-Saffar, since they are both centrists and widely agree on internal Iraqi affairs. Al-Hakim, on the other hand, is a federalist and his policies significantly diverge from those of his contenders.

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