Thursday, November 22, 2007

Shiites in S. Iraq Rebuke Tehran

BAGHDAD, Nov. 21 -- More than 300,000 Shiite Muslims from southern Iraq have signed a petition condemning Iran for fomenting violence in Iraq, according to a group of sheiks leading the campaign.
"The Iranians, in fact, have taken over all of south Iraq," said a senior tribal leader from the south who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his life. "Their influence is everywhere."

The unusually organized Iraqi rebuke illustrates the divisions that Iran has provoked among Iraq's majority Shiites. The prime minister and major political blocs are closely tied to Iran, but the petition organizers said many citizens are fiercely opposed to Iranian meddling in Iraqi affairs.
Several sheiks leading the campaign traveled to the capital from the southern province of Diwaniyah and showed The Washington Post and other news organizations an electronic file filled with images of signatures they said endorsed the petition. Their effort is being supported by the People's Mujaheddin Organization of Iran, or Mujaheddin-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition group that is listed by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization but that nonetheless enjoys U.S. military protection in Iraq.
The petition, which the organizers said was signed by 600 sheiks, calls on the United Nations to send a delegation to investigate what it termed crimes committed by Iran and its proxies in southern Iraq.
"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 a 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."
The campaign echoes repeated pronouncements by U.S. officials that Iran has been instigating violence in Iraq and allowing weapons to flow across the border, though U.S. officials have said in recent weeks that Iran appeared to be honoring a pledge to clamp down on weapons smuggling.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday that the United States had agreed to an Iraqi proposal for a fourth round of talks between U.S. and Iranian officials on the situation in Iraq. "We are open to using this channel as a way of talking directly about important issues concerning security in Iraq," he told reporters in Washington....


A brave (or foolhardy) Lebanese Shiite cleric denounces Hassan Nasrallah, the Iranian regime and Bashar Al-Assad, calling the Syrian leader "the Godfather of Idiots."

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