According to an interview with Iraq Defense Minister Hazan Shaalan by the Kuwait newspaper Al-Qabas, more than a million Iranians crossed the border into Iraq to vote in the elections.

Said Shaalan, “If we go to Basra, we will not hear an Arabic accent; rather we will hear a Farsi accent, and this is true of Najaf and al-Kut provinces.” Shaalan, whose figures echoed those of King Abdullah II of Jordan, said that Tehran is attempting to create a “Shiite Crescent from Iran to Syria and Lebanon.”

This is the nightmare that America has feared for decades: the unification of the Shiites in Iran and Iraq. Are we facing the possibility of what could happen … or are we looking at the handwriting on the wall?

During the last year, an ever-growing progression of Iraqi officials, including the interim-prime minister, Ayad Allawi, and the interim president, Ghazi al-Yawar, have charged Iran with interfering in Iraq. In a Washington Post article last December, al-Yawar alleged that Iran was pouring “huge amounts of money” into the religious Shiite party to influence the creation of an Iraqi Islamic Republic.

Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani issued a fatwa (a decree handed down by an Islamic cleric) calling for all eligible Iraqi Shiites to vote. The Shiite population comprises about 60 percent of Iraq’s 26 million inhabitants.

It now seems very likely that the pre-election invasion of Iraq by potential voters will insure the birth of a Shiite republic with significant ties to the hard-core Islamic state of Iran. Iran’s “Islamic revolution” is far from over. Current demagogues have not abandoned the worldview of their founder, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and stand ready to export the revolution to any Middle East country they deem ripe for the taking.

Iraqi Shiites who suffered under Saddam Hussein’s rule look to Iran for religious guidance. President Bush, in an interview with the Dubai-based satellite channel Al-Arabiya, warned Iran against interfering with the election process: “Let’s be clear, the Iranians should not be in a position to influence the elections. … The future of Iraq is based on the Iraqi nationality and the Iraqi character and the Iraqi people.”

The role of Islam in the new Iraqi government has yet to be determined. The Shiites are expected to win the majority of the seats in the election based on their overwhelming numbers. The party is controlled by religious entities that desire a constitution based on sharia (the body of Islamic law.) That could very well lead to a government similar to the one in neighboring Iran.

The top Shiite contender on the slate of candidates, Abdul Aziz al-Hakin, heads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. He and his party have extensive ties to Iran. Experts believe that Iran funnels funds into the various Shiite political parties through religious networks of schools, soup kitchens and other forms of public assistance to Iraqi Shiites.

The great fear among the United States and several European countries is that Iran does, indeed, have enriched uranium, not at the level needed to generate power, but rather a weapons-grade used to form the core of nuclear warheads. The question becomes, “Why does an oil-rich Iran need nuclear energy?”

The head of Israel’s Mossad, Meir Dagan, recently reported to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee: “The assessment is that by the end of 2005 the Iranians will reach the point of no return from the technological perspective of creating a uranium-enrichment capability.” Dagan added that in approximately two years, Iran could have the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Vice President Dick Cheney addressed the possibility that Israel may be forced to intervene in Iran as they did in Iraq in 1981. Cheney was quoted as saying:

If, in fact, the Israelis become convinced the Iranians have significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards.

Neither Iran, nor the petro-rich, family-owned corporations in the Middle East wish to see Iraq become a democratic, secular state. They fear the collapse of the last axis of dictatorships in the world if America’s stealth weapon called democracy is allowed to contaminate the region. Every attempt will be made to halt the march of freedom and democracy in Iraq by empowering the Shiites to force an Islamic state.

With over half the world’s population of Shiites in Iran and Iraq, there is no doubt that this is more dangerous than anyone can comprehend. Najaf is one of the holiest Shiite sites in the world. Five of Muhammad’s direct descendants are buried there. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini lived in Najaf for 12 years before declaring on April Fools’ Day 1979 “the first day of God’s government.”

This dilemma facing President George W. Bush during his second term could be an even greater challenge than the one faced by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, and with nuclear capabilities lurking on the horizon, most certainly a more deadly challenge.

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