Friday, March 09, 2007

Perspective: Iranian influence soaring in Iraq

Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki with Iran's President Ahmadinejad

BAGHDAD -- In the cafeteria of Iraq's parliament, Shiite legislators slip into Persian when they don't want their conversations overheard. In the holy city of Najaf, an Iranian charity helps newlyweds buy furniture. Iranian weapons, freshly manufactured, are turning up in arms caches seized from insurgents in and around Baghdad.

These are among the many ways in which Iran's soaring influence is being felt in Iraq, where Iran's complex entanglement in the affairs of its neighbor lies at the heart of the schism.

To Iraq's Sunnis, Iran's ascendancy as a regional power and its close relationship with the Shiite-led government represent a pernicious threat to the survival of Iraq's Arab identity.

"America handed Iraq to Iran on a golden plate," says Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq. "Everything Iran fought for in the Iran-Iraq war, America gave to it when it invaded."

Read the rest at the Chicago Tribune