Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Iran’s New Ambassador To Iraq Has His Work Cutout For Him

On August 1, 2010 Iran’s new ambassador to Iraq Hassan Danafar finally arrived in Baghdad. As reported before, he is a general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force. He was born in Baghdad in 1962, was deported by Saddam during the Iran-Iraq War, fought on the Iranian side as part of the Supreme Council’s Badr Brigade, before joining the Qods force where he rose to be the deputy commander of their Navy. Before being appointed ambassador he was the head of Iran’s Headquarters for Renovation of Iraq’s Holy Shrines.

Danafar’s first order of business will be to try to bring Iraq’s feuding Shiite parties together so that they can maintain control of the government. Currently, talks between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the Sadrist-Supreme Council led Iraqi National Alliance (INA) have broken down. Three weeks ago the INA sent an official letter to the premier telling him that they would not support his return to power. Since then there have been no talks between the two. The Sadrists are resentful that Maliki sent the security forces after them in 2008 and that their followers continue to be arrested. Both they and the Supreme Council are afraid of the premier’s steps to centralize authority around himself and his Dawa Party. The Supreme Council is also worried that they will only have a minor role in the next government because they are outnumbered by the Sadrists and State of Law in parliament. As a result, the National Alliance has continually demanded that someone other than Maliki be nominated as prime minister, but to no avail.

Into this mix comes Tehran, which has been pushing its allies in both lists to compromise. In July 2010 for example, it was reported that Iran had told Ammar Hakim, the head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council that he should support Maliki to preserve Shiite dominance in Iraqi politics. Iran is afraid that if the National Alliance and State of Law fail to compromise Iyad Allawi will return to power, which they would see as a Sunni victory. Tehran was originally behind the formation of the National Alliance before the March 2010 parliamentary elections, and the May merger between State of Law and the INA.

Danafar’s presence is unlikely to accomplish anything for now. Iraqi politics is deadlocked, and officials aren’t talking about any breakthroughs until September after Ramadan is over. In the long-run however, Tehran has a much greater chance at success than the Americans or Arab states who are hoping for an Allawi-Maliki alliance. The Shiite parties and Iran have the same ultimate goal, to remain in power. After the premier is either pushed out of the way, or the National Alliance gives into Danafar’s lobbying for Maliki, things should move forward quickly to seat a new government. The problem as ever is that is still months away.

SOURCES

AK News, “Pressure from Iran on the Supreme Council to accept Al-Maliki, source reveals,” 7/19/10
- “SLC to adopt new position toward INA,” 8/1/10-

Aswat al-Iraq, “Iran’s presence in Iraq relies on NC’s existence – Shiite source,” 7/17/10
- “Zebari receives copy of credentials of Iranian amb.,” 8/2/10

Londono, Ernesto, “Iraqis don’t expect political impasse to be resolved by fall,” Washington Post, 8/1/10

MEMRI Staff, “After a Lull in Activity Yesterday, Al-Maliki and Allawi Meet Again Today,” MEMRI Blog, 7/22/10

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, “Senior Official: Iran Demands We Accept al-Maliki At Any Cost,” MEMRI Blog, 7/29/10

Tehran Times, “New Iranian ambassador starts his work in Iraq,” 8/1/10

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