A quick reality check would reveal that Iran is by far the sole party with the most realistic chance of pocketing the results of the Iraqi elections.
Many correctly argue that the Iraqi-Shiites are different from Iran's ruling clerics. Even pro-Iran Shiite leaders have assured U.S. congressmen that they are not seeking an Iraq modeled after Iran. But does this guarantee that Iraq will not turn into an Islamic republic? Absolutely not.
While in exile just weeks before the fall of the Shah, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini claimed that upon returning to Iran he would go to the holy city of Qom to teach in a seminary. He even appointed a Western-educated, cabinet once the Shah fell. A few months later, however, all ministers were jailed, executed, or otherwise sacked and the dragon of Islamic extremism made his move to install an absolute theocracy. Running on an anti-American, anti-Western platform, Khomeini’s Iran soon became the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism, and began to develop a nuclear weapons program. Khomeini also sought to establish a global Islamic empire, coining the motto of “liberating Jerusalem via Karbala (Iraq).”
Today Tehran is paying some 10,000 Iraqi clerics and thousands of Iraqi agents on a regular basis.
Nearly three-quarters of Iraq's population live within a 100 miles radius of the country's 900-mile border with Iran, making it vulnerable to the region’s sole Shiite-dominated theocracy. Over the past few weeks, senior Iraqi officials have repeatedly called Iran “enemy number one.” In a January press conference, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said the detained members of the Muhammad Army responsible for a series of bombings and beheadings in Baghdad and elsewhere, admitted to have been in contact and have received support from Iran.
According to information received from sources in Iran, Tehran has spent $80 million to buy Iraqi votes, and to help campaign for pro-Iran candidates. Tehran has also been funding at least 30 Iraqi media outlets, including radio and television stations, as well as newspapers and magazines that have been campaigning for Islamic extremists. Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan warned recently that over a million Iranians had entered the country to pose as Iraqis in the upcoming elections. He charged that Tehran was determined to "build an Islamic dictatorship and have turbaned clerics rule in Iraq."
Some argue that because of the escalation of violence, and the Sunnis’ fear of being left out, the election should be boycotted or postponed. Others argue that the election in and of itself guarantees Iraq a democratic future.
The real solution, however, is for the Iraqi interim government and other relevant officials to initiate a series of specific steps.
Moderate, anti-fundamentalist and democratic Iraqi voices – both Shiite and Sunni — should be strengthened, and the free flow of Iranian money, arms, and personnel into Iraq should be stopped, to deter Tehran’s otherwise imminent dominance over the outcome of any election held at any time. The outside instigators involved in swaying the outcome of the elections should be arrested, exposed to the Iraqi public, and brought to justice. Any Iraqi neighbors, especially Iran, caught meddling should have their embassy personnel expelled. This would assure all Iraqis, Sunnis and Shiites of a fair chance in the election. Those who are shunning the election now would be encouraged to participate or otherwise would be isolated.
As King Abdullah of Jordan recently cautioned, if Iran succeeds in legitimizing its long-held ambition of an Iraqi Islamic Republic, the result “would be very destabilizing for the Gulf countries and actually for the whole region.”
Alireza Jafarzadeh is a FOX News foreign affairs analyst and president of Strategic Policy Consulting, Inc. He is a well-known authority on issues relating to Iraq, Iran, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and Islamic fundamentalism. The international concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons program has largely arisen from Jafarzadeh’s stunning revelations about seven formerly secret nuclear sites, including the sites in Natanz, and Arak.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, the deputy director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is credited with exposing Iranian nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002, triggering International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. He is the author of "The Iran Threat" (Palgrave MacMillan: 2008). His email is Jafarzadeh@ncrius.org, and is on twitter @A_Jafarzadeh.