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.


Iran, US tension is a ‘clash of wills’: Guards commander

Updated 23 May 2019
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Iran, US tension is a ‘clash of wills’: Guards commander

  • The commander said they will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for their enemies
  • Tensions between Iran and US escalated after Trump restored sanctions

GENEVA: The standoff between Iran and the United States is a “clash of wills,” a senior commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday, suggesting any enemy “adventurism” would meet a crushing response, Fars news agency reported.
Tensions have spiked between the two countries after Washington sent more military forces to the Middle East in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.
“The confrontation and face-off of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the malicious government of America is the arena for a clash of wills,” Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri said.
He pointed to a battle during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war where Iran was victorious and said the outcome could be a message that Iran will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for any enemy “adventurism.”
On Sunday, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!“
Trump restored US sanctions on Iran last year and tightened them this month, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
Trump wants Iran to come to the negotiating table to reach a new deal with more curbs on its nuclear and missile programs.
Reiterating Iran’s stance, the spokesman for its Supreme National Security Council said on Thursday that “There will not be any negotiations between Iran and America.”
Keyvan Khosravi was also quoted as saying by the state broadcaster that some officials from several countries have visited Iran recently, “mostly representing the United States.”
He did not elaborate, but the foreign minister of Oman, which in the past helped pave the way for negotiations between Iran and the United States, visited Tehran on Monday.
“Without exception, the message of the power and resistance of the Iranian nation was conveyed to them,” he said.
In Berlin, a German diplomatic source told Reuters that Jens Ploetner, a political director in Germany’s Foreign Ministry, was in Tehran on Thursday for meetings with Iranian officials to try to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and cool tensions in the region.