Iran pushes Sadr alliance in Iraq to maintain clout

File photo showing Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr speaks during a news conference with Leader of the Conquest Coalition and the Iran-backed Shiite militia Badr Organization Hadi Al-Amiri, Najaf, Iraq. (AFP)
Updated 14 June 2018
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Iran pushes Sadr alliance in Iraq to maintain clout

  • Gathering at Iran embassy in Baghdad with general Qassem Soleimani and Mojtaba Khamenei, son of supreme leader seals the deal for Iraqi government.
  • Sources told AFP that Soleimani used the meeting to call for "a strong government, far from American and Saudi pressure"

BAGHDAD: A surprise alliance between the winners of Iraq’s election appears to reflect manoeuvering by neighboring Iran to form a broad Shiite coalition as it scrambles to protect its influence.
When nationalist cleric Moqtada Sadr’s bloc scooped the most seats at May’s poll it was seen as a blow for Tehran, long the dominant foreign player in conflict-hit Iraq.
Shiite firebrand Sadr had railed against both the influence of Iran and the United States, even drawing closer to Tehran’s arch-foe Saudi Arabia as he insisted Iraqis should run their own affairs.
So an announcement on Tuesday that he was linking up with the pro-Iranian former fighters Hadi Al-Ameri who finished second at the election was a shock to Iraq’s political class.
Insiders said the unlikely tie-up to try to form a new government, came after Iran decided that if it couldn’t beat Sadr, then it might be better to seek to join him.
In the immediate aftermath of the vote, Tehran had launched a political offensive to try to unite its allies and block Sadr’s path to power.
But Iran changed tack on realizing pushing the popular cleric aside was too problematic, and instead sought to include Sadr in a Shiite alliance broad enough to neutralize his influence.
At a meeting Sunday with Ameri and former premier Nuri Al-Maliki at Iran’s embassy in Baghdad, top emissaries from Tehran apparently endorsed a link-up with Sadr as the lesser of two evils.
“Dismissing Moqtada Sadr could allow him to assemble other groups and increase the criticism levelled at Iran’s role in Iraq,” said a source close to participants of the meeting.
The gathering involved influential Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Mojtaba Khamenei, son of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Soleimani used the opportunity to call for “a strong government, far from American and Saudi pressure and from foreign interference,” the same source told AFP.
If the broad Shiite alliance gets off the ground Iran will be “the first to support the next government in Iraq,” Soleimani was quote as saying.

Ahmad Assadi, spokesman for Ameri’s Conquest Alliance, said it was natural that outside powers were interested in what was happening in Iraq.
Developments in the country are “important for neighboring countries and great powers, especially Iran and the US,” he told AFP.
Iran has become the major player since the US-led invasion of 2003, while the Americans led a coalition to oust Daesh group last year.

As the coalition government materializes, three candidates have emerged for the post of prime minister.
They are outgoing premier Haider Al-Abadi, his interior minister Qassem Al-Araji who is close to Ameri, and Mohammad Al-Sudani, a former rights minister under Maliki.
“There will be other candidates but the Shiite alliance must choose two who will be put to a vote by the new parliament,” the source from the embassy meeting said.


US is trying to make Iran ‘surrender’ through sanctions says Iran’s vice president

Updated 15 August 2018
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US is trying to make Iran ‘surrender’ through sanctions says Iran’s vice president

  • Iranian vice president Eshaq Jahangiri accused the US of trying to force Iran to surrender through the imposition of sanctions
  • The new sanctions targeted Iranian purchases of US dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and its auto sector

The United States is trying to make Iran surrender through the imposition of sanctions, Iranian vice president Eshaq Jahangiri said on Wednesday.
New US sanctions against Iran took effect last week, and President Donald Trump said companies doing business with the country will be barred from the United States.
“The first priority for all of us under a sanctions situation is to work toward managing the country in a way that brings the least amount of damage to people’s lives,” Fars News quoted Jahangiri as saying. “America is trying by applying various pressures on our society to force us to retreat and surrender.”
The new sanctions targeted Iranian purchases of US dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and its auto sector, though the toughest measures targeting oil exports do not take effect for four more months.
Few US companies do much business in Iran so the impact of sanctions mainly stems from Washington’s ability to block European and Asian firms from trading there.
President Hassan Rouhani made similar comments to Jahangiri, although he did not specifically refer to the United States.
“We will not let the enemy bring us to our knees,” Rouhani said, according to state TV. “If the enemy thinks they will defeat us they will take this hope to the grave with them.”
Washington had said Iran’s only chance of avoiding the sanctions would be to accept an offer by Trump to negotiate a tougher nuclear deal than the international accord struck in 2015. Trump pulled the United States out of this agreement with world powers in May.
“America itself took actions which destroyed the conditions for negotiation,” Rouhani said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). “There were conditions for negotiation and we were negotiating. They destroyed the bridge themselves,” he said. “If you’re telling the truth then come now and build the bridge again.”
Iranian officials have already rejected Trump’s offer and on Monday Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in the country, also ruled out the possibility of talks.
The Iranian economy is beset by high unemployment and a rial currency which has lost half its value since April. The reimposition of sanctions could also make the economic situation worse.
Rouhani said the economy is the biggest problem facing the country.
Thousands of Iranians have protested in recent weeks against sharp price rises of some food items, a lack of jobs and state corruption. The protests over the cost of living have often turned into anti-government rallies.