Shiite-dominated Iran has shifted its stance toward neighboring Iraq, backing Sunni inclusion in a new government in Baghdad and likely putting a damper on current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s attempts to shape the new government.

While it was not immediately clear why Iran shifted its position, some analysts say Tehran wants to see relative political peace in Iraq in the months ahead so as not to upset the U.S. plan for troop withdrawal. –JCL

The New York Times:

Iran, which has acted as a major power broker in Iraqi politics, called Saturday for Iraqi leaders to include Sunnis in the long-overdue new government and said Shiites would have to form an alliance with them for that to happen.

The statement was a major shift in Tehran’s stance toward Iraq. Iran, Iraq’s huge Shiite neighbor, has always advocated and actively encouraged a Shiite-dominated governing alliance.

It was not immediately clear what prompted Iran’s shift — or why it occurred now. With negotiations deadlocked a month after Iraq’s parliamentary election, it seemed a pragmatic recognition of the success of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, whose coalition includes some Sunni parties and won a plurality of parliamentary seats. It also suggested some distancing from the current prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, whose relations with Iran have not always been smooth.

The shift in Iran’s stance is likely to be a blow to Mr. Maliki’s aspirations to lead a Shiite alliance in forming a government, but a press adviser to the prime minister, Ali al-Moussawi, played down its significance. “The prime minister’s stand is also that everybody must be included in the government,” Mr. Moussawi said.

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