FaithWorld

Iraq’s Arab neighbours wary of Shi’ite sway after vote

By Reuters Staff
March 15, 2010
iraq shi'ites

Shi'ites mark the religious ceremony of Arbain at Imam Abbas shrine in Kerbala, 5 Feb 2010/Mushtaq Muhammed

Iraq’s Arab neighbours fear a split Iraqi election could further marginalise minority Sunnis and hope any coalition government formed by the Shi’ite frontrunner will resist Iran’s sway. Many Sunni Arabs had wanted a stronger showing by secularists, who they now hope will bring cross-sectarian balance to any coalition government that could be formed by Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

“These election results show that there is a Shi’ite wave in the region which threatens Arab security in the region. Iran has a hidden role in the Arab region and it supports Shi’ite elements in the area, particularly in Iraq,” said Magid Mazloum from the Centre for Gulf Studies in Cairo.

Early election results showed Maliki pulling ahead on Sunday in an election Iraqis hoped would end years of sectarian strife, but a divided vote suggested long and fraught talks to form a government are ahead. But the overall picture, reflecting a nation fragmented by decades of sectarian and ethnic conflict, was still incomplete a week after the vote.

Sunni-led Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf where there are significant and marginalised Shi’ite minorities, worry about the repercussions of Iranian influence in Iraq. They fear meddling by Shi’ite non-Arab Iran in Iraq, an Arab country with a Shi’ite Muslim majority, could incite their own Shi’ite populations and that sectarian instability in Iraq could spill over.

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