Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei has joined efforts to address the crisis between Iraq's Sadrist movement leader, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and the pro-Tehran Coordination Framework as they grapple to form a new government.
Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Khamenei has forced the Coordination Framework to remain united, barring its members, specifically Hadi al-Ameri's Fatah alliance, from joining the rival Sadrist camp.
It was revealed that late last month leaders of the Framework had drafted a letter asking Khamenei to allow members of the alliance to join Sadr's coalition in spite of the reservations against him.
The letter was supposed to be sent by head of the State of Law coalition, led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but the decision to send it was never taken.
Maliki, however, "leaked it from behind their backs" because he knew that Khamenei's response would put an end to any chance of striking an alliance between the Sadrists and the Fatah alliance.
The exchange of messages between the Framework and Khamenei reveals the extent of the role - or lack of it - played by Iran's Quds Forces commander Esmail Qaani in Iraq.
Contrary to his slain predecessor, Qassem Soleimani, Qaani appears to be playing the role of messenger between Tehran, Baghdad, Erbil and Najaf.
Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport in 2020, played a more influential role in Iraq than Qaani, and was largely able to keep Shiite parties united, in contrast to their current state of disarray.
Qaani met Sadr in Najaf on Tuesday in an effort to resolve the crisis.
The Sadrist leader tweeted after the talks: "Neither east, nor west... a government of national majority," in what observers said was as a sign that Qaani had failed to make a breakthrough.
Sadr, who emerged victorious in the October parliamentary elections, holds sway over the formation of the next Iraqi government.