Tehran steps into vacuum as Washington influence in Iraq wanes

In the aftermath of the Iraqi election, major political alliances have sent delegations seeking advice from Iran. U.S. officials have not had any contact with the nominal election winner, secular candidate Ayad Allawi. Iranian authorities have urged various Shiite religious parties to unite in order to force the selection of the next Iraqi prime minister -- suggesting a change in influence away from Washington and toward Tehran. Further exacerbating sectarian tensions, Sunni candidates say that their ranks are being harassed by Iraqis loyal to Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

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