Iran involved in Sadr City truce, says Iraqi MP
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iran played a prominent role in a deal struck by Iraqi Shi'ite factions to end seven weeks of fighting in the Baghdad stronghold of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a senior Shi'ite Iraqi legislator said on Monday.
Ali al-Adeeb, a member of the ruling Shi'ite alliance who is close to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said an Iraqi delegation that went to Tehran almost two weeks ago asked for Iranian help because of Tehran's influence over Sadr's movement.
Adeeb's comments illustrated the growing sway Shi'ite Iran has in Iraq and could unsettle Washington.
The deal to end fighting between security forces and gunmen loyal to the anti-American Sadr was unveiled on Saturday. It was announced after talks between the ruling Shi'ite alliance and Sadr's political movement, which has seats in parliament.
"The Iranians gave a positive response to the demands made by the delegation. They gave those demands to the Sadrist decision makers because they have specific influence on those people," Adeeb, who was part of the delegation, told Reuters.
He did not say whether Iranian officials spoke to Sadr, who the U.S. military says is living in Iran where he is believed to be taking advanced Islamic studies.
Washington, at loggerheads with Tehran over Iran's nuclear ambitions, has blamed much of the violence in Sadr City on rogue elements of his Mehdi Army militia.
It says these groups are armed, trained and funded by Iran. Tehran denies the allegation and says the violence in Iraq is caused by the presence of U.S. forces.
Adeeb said the delegation met Iranian political and security officials and discussed how to restore security in Sadr City. The fighting erupted when Maliki launched a crackdown on militias in late March.
Adeeb said that after the Iraqi delegation returned to Baghdad in early May, talks were held with Sadr's political movement. Those discussions culminated in the agreement announced on Saturday.
"The talks made in Iran were followed by more talks here in Baghdad with the representatives of the Sadr bloc," he said.
Asked if he believed the Iranians had put pressure on Sadr to reach the agreement, Adeeb said:
"I don't want to say it is pressure. But the Iranians have their point of view. We told them that imposing security is for the benefit of all parties in Iraq."
Iraqi officials acknowledge Iran has considerable influence in Iraq, partly through ties to Shi'ite politicians and parties that were based in Iran for many years during the rule of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab.
Iranian officials were also involved in efforts to end fighting between the Mehdi Army and Iraqi security forces in the southern city of Basra in late March.
A Western diplomat in Tehran said he believed Iran's role in Iraq was "really deep".
But the Iranian aim was to make life difficult for Washington, not for the Shi'ite-led government, he said.
He said Iran wanted to make clear it was an important player in the Middle East: "It is a way of showing the U.S. and Iraqi government they have the power (to stop trouble if they want)."
In an illustration of the tightrope Baghdad is walking with Tehran, the same delegation that sought help on ending the violence in Sadr City also gave evidence to Iranian officials of the Islamic Republic's backing of Shi'ite militias in Iraq.
Soon after the delegation returned to Baghdad, the government said Maliki had ordered the formation of a committee to compile evidence of Iranian "interference" in Iraq that would then be presented to Tehran.
(Additional reporting by Fred Dahl in Tehran)
(Writing by Dean Yates, Editing by Richard Balmforth)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this