By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 14, 2005; Page A08
When the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq two years ago, it envisioned a quick handover to handpicked allies in a secular government that would be the antithesis of Iran’s theocracy—potentially even a foil to Tehran’s regional ambitions.
But, in one of the greatest ironies of the U.S. intervention, Iraqis instead went to the polls and elected a government with a strong religious base—and very close ties to the Islamic republic next door. It is the last thing the administration expected from its costly Iraq policy—$300 billion and counting, U.S. and regional analysts say.
Yesterday, the White House heralded the election and credited the U.S. role. In a statement, President Bush praised Iraqis “for defying terrorist threats and setting their country on the path of democracy and freedom. And I congratulate every candidate who stood for election and those who will take office once the results are certified.”
Yet the top two winning parties—which together won more than 70 percent of the vote and are expected to name Iraq’s new prime minister and president—are Iran’s closest allies in Iraq.