WASHINGTON -- The leaders of Iraq and Jordan warned yesterday that Iran is trying to influence the Iraqi elections scheduled for Jan. 30 to create an Islamic government that would dramatically shift the geopolitical order between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims in the Middle East.
President Ghazi al-Yawer of Iraq charged that Iran is coaching candidates and political parties sympathetic to Tehran and pouring ''huge amounts of money" into the campaign to produce a Shi'ite-dominated government similar to Iran's.
King Abdullah of Jordan said more than 1 million Iranians have crossed the 910-mile border into Iraq, many to vote in the election -- with the encouragement of the Iranian government.
''I'm sure there's a lot of people, a lot of Iranians in there that will be used as part of the polls to influence the outcome," he said in an interview.
The king also charged Iranians are paying salaries and providing welfare to unemployed Iraqis to build pro-Iranian public sentiment. Some Iranians, he added, have been trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and are members of militias that could fuel trouble in Iraq after the election.
''It is in Iran's vested interest to have an Islamic republic of Iraq . . . and therefore the involvement you're getting by the Iranians is to achieve a government that is very pro-Iran," Abdullah said.
Separately, US military intelligence officials have concluded that the Iraqi insurgency is being directed to a greater degree than previously recognized from Syria, where they said former Saddam Hussein loyalists have found sanctuary and are channeling money and other support to those fighting the established government.
Based on information gathered during the recent fighting in Fallujah, Baghdad, and elsewhere in the Sunni Triangle, the officials said a handful of senior Iraqi Baathists operating in Syria are collecting money from private sources in Saudi Arabia and Europe and turning it over to the insurgency.
In some cases, evidence suggests these Baathists are managing operations in Iraq from a distance, the officials said. A US military summary of operations in Fallujah noted recently that troops discovered a global positioning signal receiver in a bomb factory in the western part of the city that ''contained waypoints originating in western Syria."
If pro-Iran parties or politicians dominate the new Iraqi government, Abdullah said, a new ''crescent" of dominant Shi'ite movements or governments stretching from Iran into Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon could emerge, altering the traditional balance of power between the two main Islamic sects and presenting new challenges to US interests.
Iran and Iraq have Shi'ite majorities. But modern Iraq, formed after World War I, has been ruled by its Sunni minority. Syria is ruled by the minority Allawites, an offshoot of Shi'ism. Shi'ites are the largest of 17 recognized sects in Lebanon, and Hezbollah is a major Shi'ite political party with the only active militia.
Abdullah, a prominent Sunni leader, said the creation of a new Shi'ite crescent would particularly destabilize Gulf countries that have Shi'ite populations. ''Even Saudi Arabia is not immune from this. It would be a major problem. And then that would propel the possibility of a Shi'ite-Sunni conflict even more, as you're taking it out of the borders of Iraq," the king said.
Iran has faced charges of meddling in Iraq in the past, but with the election date approaching, Iraqi, US, and Arab officials have begun to make specific allegations and issue warnings about the potential impact.
''Unfortunately, time is proving and the situation is proving beyond any doubt that Iran has very obvious interference in our business," Yawer, a Sunni, said in an interview with
''We really will not accept a religious state in Iraq," the Iraqi president said. ''We haven't seen a model that succeeded."