In recent years nationalism in Iraq has made a comeback. Ethnosectarian politics are still at play, but most parties at least give lip service to working for all of Iraq. This has proven a difficult transition for some of Iraq’s parties. Those with ties to Iran have been especially hit because of the animosity Tehran’s meddling in Iraq has fostered amongst many in the public. They have lost much of their power in the last two elections as a result. It came as bit of a surprise then when two leading Shiite politicians, former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and the head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) Ammar al-Hakim made statements praising Iran in recent days.
First, on May 5, 2011 Ibrahim al-Jaafari said that the Islamic Revolution in Iran was the inspiration for the on-going uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. He went on to say that Tehran was the leader of an Islamic awakening he claimed was happening in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Bahrain. This directly echoed the line Iran’s leadership has been pushing in recent months.
Then on May 12, SIIC leader Ammar Hakim called on Arab governments to end their tension with Iran, and form a regional organization that included Turkey to normalizing economic and security relations with Tehran. He called on the Arab League and the Islamic Conference to lead the charge for better ties with Iran. Hakim’s remarks came as Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was visiting Iraq.
Jaafari and Hakim’s statements could be expected because they are both close to Iran. The SIIC was created in Iran in 1982 by Ammar’s uncle, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim with official support from Tehran. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards would go on to create its armed wing, the Badr Brigade, which fought on Tehran’s side in the Iran-Iraq War. Jaafari on the other hand, has gone back and forth with his relationship with Tehran. Jaafari was a leader in the Dawa Party, and went into exile in Iran in the 1980s for twenty years. Dawa was split however, over how close it should be to Tehran. In recent years, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pushed Jaafari out of the leadership of the party, leading him to create his own, the National Reform Movement in 2008. Since then Jaafari has tilted towards the Sadrists and Iran because he lacks a popular domestic base.
Neither Hakim nor Jaafari has done well in Iraqi politics recently. In the 2010 parliamentary elections, the SIIC won 20 seats and the Reform Movement only one, for Jaafari himself. Their close ties to Iran have not helped. Praising Tehran in their recent statements will only continue their association in many Iraqis’ minds with the neighboring Islamic government, and they’re likely to pay for it in the future.
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