Since the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the fall of Baghdad in April of that year, there was a false consensus created, suggesting that Iraqi Shiites are represented by clerics who are close to Tehran, i.e. the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).
During the parliamentary elections, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) won most of the seats in the 275 member Council of Representatives of Iraq. As a result, Tehran claimed victory and sought a bigger share of influence in Iraq.
The reality, however, was otherwise. There were many indications that the majority of the Shiite population in Iraq were secular, independent-minded, and would not endorse Tehran's Velayat-e Faqih system that is based on the absolute rule of clerics. Pro-Tehran Shiites, well funded, trained and armed by Iran, managed to overwhelm the voice of the Shiite majority who did not have the opportunity to stand on its feet before being intimidated or eliminated by Tehran-sponsored Shiite death squads.
There is now a major shift in the balance of power in favor of the more moderate voices of Shiites in Iraq as opposed to the more radicals closely aligned with Tehran.
More than 300,000 Shiites in southern Iraq, believed to be Tehran's stronghold, signed a statement calling for an end to what they referred to as "Iranian terrorist interferences," and demanded the United Nations to investigate the Islamic republic's involvement in Iraq.
Sheikh Jassim Al-Kazim, leader of the Independent National Democratic Tribes' Assembly, in interviews with major Western media in Baghdad, said that the statement’s signatories include 14 clergies, 600 sheikhs, 1,250 jurists, 2,200 physician, engineers, university professors and 25,000 women.
"The Iranians, in fact, have taken over all of southern Iraq," said a senior tribal leader from the south who spoke with the Washington Post on condition of anonymity because he feared for his life. "Their influence is everywhere."
"The most painful stab in the back of the Shiites in Iraq by the Iranian regime has been its shameful abuse of Shiite religion to achieve its ominous end," the sheiks said in the statement. "The only solution and hopeful prospect for Iraq, and in particular the southern provinces, is the eviction of the Iranian regime from our homeland."
Contrary to suggestions in recent weeks that Iran was slowing the flow of bombs, money, and other forms of support to Shiite extremists in Iraq, a top commander of the U.S. forces in Baghdad said on November 26, that there has been no letup in attacks and weapons-smuggling by Iranian-backed Shiite militants in some parts of Iraq's capital.
Despite a 75 percent decline in overall attacks in his area, there was an increase last month in the most lethal kind of roadside bombs — the explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) that come from Iran, said Army Col. Don Farris who is commander for coalition forces in northern Baghdad.
The tribal leaders also told the media that their effort is being supported by the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). The group is the main Iranian opposition, and has headquarters in Iraq's Diyala province in Ashraf city. Its members enjoy U.S. military protection in Iraq as "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Sheikh Al-Kazim, in an interview with Al-Jazeera TV, said that the statement condemned the Iranian regime's allegations against the MEK and declared their support for the organization.
In an interview with the Iraqi daily, Az-Zaman, Ayad Allawi, former Iraqi Prime Minister and current head of the Iraqi National Accord, emphasized the legitimacy of the continued presence of the MEK in Iraq. Allawi, himself a Shiite, added that a section of the MEK, as a political movement, exists in Iraq with limitations on its activities, while other parts of it operate in Iran and the rest of the world. He stressed that eviction or expulsion of MEK members (Tehran's main demand from the Iraqi government) has no place in Iraqi values or principles.
In addition, Iraqi Vice President Tariq Al-Hashemi told the Al Hurriyah TV, which is affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the party of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, that "the presence of the Iranian Mojahedin [MEK] in Iraq is based on the international conventions recognizing members of the organization as political refugees."
The new realities of Iraq indicate that the United States should empower the coalition of the more moderate and anti-Tehran Iraqis, which includes both the Sunnis and the Shiites. Iraqis believe that the main Iranian opposition has played a very constructive role in Iraq in order to isolate Tehran and its proxies; U.S. should recognize and enhance this role by removing all restriction from the MEK.
Alireza Jafarzadeh is a FOX News Channel Foreign Affairs Analyst and the author of "The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).
Jafarzadeh has revealed Iran's terrorist network in Iraq and its terror training camps since 2003. He first disclosed the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and the Arak heavy water facility in August 2002.
Prior to becoming a contributor for FOX, and until August 2003, Jafarzadeh acted for a dozen years as the chief congressional liaison and media spokesman for the U.S. representative office of Iran's parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
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.