As Iraqi Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki meets President Obama in Washington, Tehran is trying to broaden its influence in Iraq by installing a heavy-hitting cleric there.
Office of the Supreme Leader/AP/File
Iraqi officials have long dismissed that scenario as overblown. But an attempt by Tehran to install a top-ranking cleric in one of Iraq's holiest cities – thereby exercising far greater influence over Iraq's religious and political life – has prompted warnings of an "Iran project" to boldly increase leverage with its neighbor.
Iran has enjoyed sway in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion through large investments and charity work to help the country's majority Shiites, as well as by supporting Shiite militias to take on US forces on Iraqi soil.
Analysts say the bid to install Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi – a former Iranian judiciary chief who is very close to Iran's absolute ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – aims to undermine Mr. Sistani, blunt his criticism of Mr. Maliki's government, and draw Iraq closer to Iran.
Page 1 of 6