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Iran, Iraq and America

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fayyaz Zahed

One of the most important priorities of the US administration which will have to evacuate the White House in a few months time is the security agreement between Baghdad and Washington. After easily overthrowing Saddam Hussein in 2003, the US government was faced with a series of resistance cells and guerrilla operations in central and occasionally southern Iraq. Nonetheless, the severity of the operations in central Iraq, mainly in Baghdad, Diyala and Tikrit were not comparable to those in the south which has an all-Shia population.

From the very outset of the occupation, the Al-Qaeda forces alongside the remnants of the Baathist regime of Saddam as well as certain influential Arab countries began to make life hard to the Americans. Al-Qaeda had succeeded in insinuating the idea in the Arab world that the US aim is to break up four major Islamic states, namely Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran. With disintegration of these powerful states, hardline Arabs argued, Israel would turn into the sole power in the region.

Some other Arab countries were not happy with the fall of Saddam. The end of Saddam era and the strengthening of Shia and Kurdish forces have created a new strategic situation in the region. Failure to recognize the new Iraqi government and refusal to dispatch ambassadors to Baghdad coupled with involvement of certain regional intelligence services in fanning the flames of tension and disputes between the Shias and the Sunnis are enumerated in line with this strategy. However, the Americans alongside the majority of the Iraqi political forces and thanks to the prominent role played by Ayatollah Sistani tried to gradually check the growing wave of terrorism.   

In the meantime, the Shias and the Kurds tried to reinforce the Sunni political forces who had remained faithful to politics. The Americans began extensive consultations with heads of central tribes in Iraq to persuade them to keep away from tension and join the new political process. Amidst these developments, the Islamic Republic of Iran was following up a written and unwritten policy as a paradox. On the one hand, Iran was happy over the fall of Saddam Hussein but could not tolerate the new neighbor (US). The deployment of some 250000 American troops in Iraq under conditions that Washington maintained an effective military presence in Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan and Afghanistan was tantamount to a complete military siege of Iran. On the other hand, the coming to power of a government with inclination to the majority Shia population was auspicious in strategic terms. It was a model of government that Iran would probably be unable to bring about in Iraq itself. Perhaps this is one reason that some Arab leaders believe the result of the US war in Iraq has served the interests of Tehran. Nevertheless, Iran tried to prefer its long-term ambitions to sectional concerns. Although Western sources, particularly the Americans would like to attribute some resistance operations and terrorist activities to Iran because of its objections, however, it was only the government of IRI which participated in the trilateral security talks held in Iraq and formally joined the process to provide security.  

Of course, one should not and cannot overlook Iran’s considerations for the trend of developments in Iraq which has been improving over the past couple of years. After the stationing of General Petraeus and execution of the new security scheme followed by close talks between the Americans and moderate Shia groups as well as gradual elimination of Muqtada Sadr from the political scene of Iraq and respect for the wishes of Grand Ayatollah Seyed Ali Sistani, stability and tranquility has returned to the country.

The Americans have killed close to 600 of Muqtada Sadr’s effective forces. Prominent Shia personalities, including Abdulaziz Hakim and Nuri al-Maliki (the prime minister) have announced their general agreement with the security agreement. Some official reports indicate that Ayatollah Sistani has no fundamental opposition to the security plan but is only opposed to certain points. The Americans too have underlined the need to sign the general agreement reached between the US and Baghdad governments a year ago. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said agreement has been reached over the generalities of the US military presence until 2011 and this would require no negotiations. Gates has said in case of US troop withdrawal, both countries (Iraq & US) would suffer. This is both a correct and threatening remark. If the Americans halt their security cover it is likely for the terrorists to show up again. Iraq has shown its potentials for religious war and fratricide over the past couple of years. Dozens of mosques and religious centers of the Shias and Sunnis have been destroyed at the hands of extremists from both sides. Thousands of people have lost their lives in suicide bombings and the largest centers of the Shias have been hit by Al-Qaeda. Therefore, the message Gates is sending is clear. But again, Iran has voiced the biggest opposition to the security agreement and the reason is clear. Tehran wants Washington to pay the cost of Iran’s neighborhood with Iraq. Iran has suffered a lot from the instability in neighboring Iraq. The biggest damage is that the Iranian borders have been exposed to threats. On the other hand, the US has adopted the most hostile policies vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program.   

According to common sense, Iran would not be able to achieve its goals without imposing the necessary costs on the US and make it understand the policy of rationality and conciliation. It seems that the Americans have realized this important point. The Americans have started a new wave of psychological warfare against Iran. The US media accuse Iran of being behind new violent acts. It is obvious which government would benefit from new instability in Iraq! But it seems that Iranian officials too are not in favor of a sudden (US) troop withdrawal from Iraq. Even when President Ahmadinejad made an unconditional call (for a withdrawal) while he was in New York he only meant to put pressure on the White House. It is obvious that an uncalculated pullout from Iraq would leave the supporters of an independent and democratic Iraq alone against the terrorists. This is something which has been reiterated by President Talabani, Prime Minister Maliki and Hakim time and again.

In any event, it seems that the security agreement between the US and Iraq would be signed with slight changes. The important point is for the Americans to understand that Iraq’s powerful neighbor needs multilateral interaction, not only about Iraq but on other issues as well: a policy the signs of which are very likely to show up after the upcoming US presidential elections and possibly in Iran.

Source: http://www.roozna.com/

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