[DEBATE] : 'Angry' Iran Sharpens Tone with Baghdad's Leaders
critical.montages at gmail.com
Thu May 15 15:31:41 BST 2008
General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the
Revolutionary Guards of Iran ("widely described as a charismatic yet
modest leader who never abuses his authority," according to
<http://www.mcclatchydc.com/world/story/35145.html>), has a correct
idea: yes, Maliki, et al. are "offering U.S. forces 'a permanent home
on our doorsteps'," unlike Sadr, who "pledged to come to the defense
of neighboring Iran if it were attacked"
The Iranian people, who prefer Sadr ("viewed favorably [by Iranians]
by 56 percent and unfavorably by just 12 percent") to Maliki ("45
percent [of Iranians] have a favorable view of Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki while 22 percent have an unfavorable view") by a substantial
are with the general on his assessment of the Shi'i factions in power.
Now the general ought to build elite consensus on this fact and help
the Leader, et al. effect a nuanced shift in Iran's policy toward the
Shi'i factions in Iraq.
'Angry' Iran sharpens tone with Baghdad's leaders
By HAMZA HENDAWI and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA – 19 hours ago
BAGHDAD (AP) — When a group of Iraqi envoys headed to Iran recently,
they were fully prepared for some tense moments. But they also hoped
to come away with something to show for it: pledges of cooperation on
weakening Shiite militias in Iraq.
Instead, they got a scolding from some of Iran's most powerful voices
— accusing the Iraqi leadership of bowing to Washington and forgetting
about Tehran's support for Shiites persecuted by Saddam Hussein.
The swipes during the April 30-May 2 meetings — described to The
Associated Press by members of the Iraqi delegation and other senior
officials — signified more than a passing spat between the main Shiite
centers of gravity in the region.
Relations between Iraq's Shiite-led government and the rulers in
neighboring Iran have come under unprecedented strains as Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki moves against rivals and negotiates long-term
pacts with Washington.
There's almost no chance it could lead to a full-blown rupture. Iran's
influence runs too deep in Iraq: from the main political bloc in
al-Maliki's government to elements within the powerful Mahdi Army
But the friction points to increasingly mismatched priorities: Iran is
desperate to undercut the U.S. role in Iraq while Iraq's leaders are
looking for American help to bolster their hold on power.
It also comes as Iran's alliances and ambitions stir new jitters
around the Persian Gulf and beyond, where Sunni leaders have held the
upper hand for decades.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, warned Tuesday that
Iran risked souring its relations with Arab and Muslim countries
because of Tehran's backing for the Shiite militant group Hezbollah,
which he accused of seeking a "coup" against the Lebanese government.
Iran's muscle flexing is expected to be on the agenda during President
Bush's trip to the Middle East, which began Wednesday in Israel.
Bush's schedule did not include a stop in Iraq, but such trips are not
announced in advance.
Iran, for its part, is not sitting back quietly.
On Monday, the hard-line Iranian newspaper Jomhuri-e-Eslami accused
al-Maliki of lacking backbone in alks with Washington, which include
the long-range status of U.S. military operations in Iraq. The daily,
which is considered close to Iran's ruling clerics, claimed Washington
wants a "full-fledged colony" in Iraq.
It was a rare public jab at al-Maliki, a Shiite. But it was mild
compared with the closed-door recriminations during the high-level
Iraqi visit, according to accounts by Shiite politicians close to
Iraq's prime minister.
The five-member delegation sought to pressure and cajole the Iranians
into cutting suspected support for Shiite militias that have battled
U.S. and Iraqi forces. But the Iraqis mostly received a scolding, the
"The Iranians were very tough and even angry with us," said one of the
delegates in the Tehran talks. "They accused us of being ungrateful to
what Iran has done for the Shiites during Saddam's rule and of siding
with the Americans against Iran."
The Iraqi politicians, five in all, spoke to the AP in separate
interviews on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the
subject. Two of them took part in the talks with the Iranians. The
rest were briefed on the meetings.
At one point, a key leader within Iran's Revolutionary Guards accused
the Iraqi delegation and their leaders of being tools of Washington
and showing ingratitude for years of Iranian support to Iraqi's
majority Shiites, who suffered attacks and persecution under Saddam,
the politicians said.
Brig. Gen. Ghassem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force unit
of the Guards, accused the Iraqis of offering U.S. forces "a permanent
home on our doorsteps," the politicians told the AP.
The Iranians also rejected what the Iraqis called "evidence" of
Iranian ties to Shiite militiamen, including seized weapons that bore
Iranian markings, the politicians said.
Responding to accusations that Shiite militiamen were training in
camps outside Tehran, the Iranians claimed the facilities were being
used to house members of the Mahdi Army who fled Iraq to escape
The leader of the Mahdi Army, militant Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr,
has lived in Iran for the past year — partly because he fears for his
life in Iraq and because he is studying for the high clerical rank of
The suspected degree of Iranian links with Shiite militiamen depends
on who is making the accusation.
The U.S. military is careful to distinguish in its public
pronouncements between the mainstream Mahdi Army and breakaway
"special groups" with alleged closer ties with Iran. Iraqi authorities
are less specific and suggest that al-Sadr's entire movement is
drifting more into Iran's orbit.
This week, al-Sadr's Mahdi Army agreed to an accord to end clashes in
Baghdad's Sadr City district. But fighting has not fully subsided,
suggesting that some militiamen now operate out of al-Sadr's control.
In late March, however, Iran helped broker an end to battles between
Iraqi-led forces and Mahdi Army fighters in the southern city of
The mixed signals from Iran underscore the complexity of Tehran's role
since the fall of Iran's archenemy Saddam more than five years ago.
Last year, a senior Iranian envoy, Ali Larijani, told al-Maliki that
Iran considers the U.S. troop presence in Iraq a "serious danger" to
Iran's national security. Then at the recent meetings, Iranian
authorities said they opposed al-Maliki's goal to crush the Mahdi
Army, arguing it would rob Tehran of a key ally, the Iraqi politicians
told the AP.
But Iran also has taken part in groundbreaking one-on-one talks with
U.S. diplomats in Baghdad on ways to calm Iraq's violence.
Vali Nasr, an Iranian-American expert who closely monitors Shiite
affairs, said Tehran saw the timing of the Mahdi Army crackdown as
particularly harmful — coming as more Sunni armed groups forge
alliances with the United States against al-Qaida in Iraq.
"The (Iranian) argument is that the destruction of the Sadrists will
weaken Shiites at a time when Sunni tribes are being armed and getting
stronger," said Nasr, a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and
Diplomacy at Tufts University.
More information about the Debate-list