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An Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq says it will lay down its arms and join the political process, a move that could tilt Iraqi politics to a more pro-Iran bent. The group, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, "has agreed to lay down its arms and join the political process," the Associated Press reported on Friday, citing both Amer al-Khuzaie, the Iraqi government minister in charge of reconciling with armed groups, and an anonymous commander in the group itself. Asaid Ahl al-Haq formed as a spinoff from radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, which he formed to fight Americans. It has carried out attacks on American bases as recently as June, which the AP notes was the deadliest month for U.S. forces there in two years. On Friday, Al-Khuzaie said "they want to join the political process ... and give up armed struggle," the AP reports. The news agency also spoke with an anonymous commander in the group, who said it wanted to "ally with other Shiite groups to run in provincial and parliamentary elections." But as The Sydney Morning Herald reports, the group's new political ambitions -- and the Iraqi government's own welcome to its newly nonviolent approach -- could throw the door open to Iranian influence. "Iraq's government could embolden a militia with an almost non-existent track record of peace while potentially handing Tehran greater influence in a country where the US spent billions of dollars and lost nearly 4500 soldiers in nearly nine years of war," the paper reported. But if the alternative is a campaign of bombing and terror, the Iraqi government apparently thinks that's worth it.

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