Sunday, March 02, 2008

Ahmadinejad in Baghdad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began a two day visit to Baghdad by implictly praising the effect of US actions in Iraq, then attacking it's policy toward Iran. He said "visiting Iraq without the dictator is a good thing," then replied to charges Teheran was supplying EFPs to insurgents by saying "(U.S. President) Bush always accuses others without evidence and this increases problems, the Americans have to understand that Iraqi people do not like America."

The Iranian president appears to have accepted that Iraq is here to stay.

"Iraqi people are passing through a critical situation but as we know, the Iraqi people will overcome the situation and the Iraq of tomorrow will be a powerful, developed and unique Iraq ... an independent state ... the people of Iran and Iraq have close bonds, and there are many holy shrines in Iraq ... people travel there, so we have age-old, historical bonds and common civilization."

This last comment is extremely interesting. At a recent blogger's conference it was remarked that southern Iraq is thriving; and that the pilgrim trade has risen so high that next year it is expected to be two or three times its size.

Several background factors may help clarify to the purposes of Ahmedinajad's trip. The the most important is gas. Iran needs money, both to line the Ayatollah's pockets and to head off domestic unrest. And Europe needs energy. The European Union and the United States have been looking to Iran as an alternative source of natural gas to Russia. A pipeline between Iran and the EU via Turkey would be of enormous value to both. But lingering suspicions over Iran's intentions in Iraq and its nuclear ambitions have stood in the way. The great powers at the UN are preparing yet another round of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear weapons program, sanctions which, from the point of gas pipelines, neither wants.

The next most important is Iran's need to avoid the ruinous expense of having to match the deployments of the new 13-division Iraqi Army on its borders. It has probably now been accepted in Teheran that toppling the new Iraq or subverting it to Iranian control is beyond the capability of the Qods or the Shi'ite militias in Iraq. One of the unappreciated effects of the Surge has been the return of the Sunnis to the national political table. With the Sunnis politically reconciled to the US, albeit partially, Iran's victory option in Iraq has vanished.

A negotiated deal to put a definite stop to the Iranian nuclear weapons program and an undertaking by Iran to abandon all efforts to destabilize Iraq would remove the major obstacles to a gas pipeline deal, and avoid further Iranian entanglements in Iraq. Iran would then have its pipeline. A 'strong and united Iraq' might also forestall a political threat to the Shi'ite theocracy from southern Iraq. The virus of Sistani-ism may spread east through the millions of pilgrims who will visit Iraq to infect the Islamic Revolution. If the gas pipeline is Teheran's fondest dream a popular alternative model to its fading theocratic rule may be its worst nightmare.

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Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

Interesting take, Wretchard!

One can see how easy it must be for Eurocrats to convince themselves they can jaw-jaw Iran out of its bellicose posture. Logic & self-interest would seem to dictate that Iran's rulers should go for the money-spinning pipeline instead of dangerous confrontation.

But history is full of examples of people acting against their own rational best interests. Will Iran become yet another such example? Time will tell.

3/02/2008 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Even oil ticks need to learn that you will never, ever, win a war by trying to outspend the United States of America. I'm surprised Vladimir is preparing to give it another try.

3/02/2008 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Ahmadinejad, in Baghdad

Where's one of those car bombs when we finally need one?

3/02/2008 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Ahmadinnerjacket's such a cute little tyrant. You just wanna get his head in the crook of your elbow and give him a noogie!

Like a little brother following you around, wanting to play with the big boys. He's in Iraq, for god's sake! And is supposed to be a major player in that part of the world. So what's he obsessively talk about?

3/02/2008 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Coyotl said...

Wretchard wrote:
It has probably now been accepted in Teheran that toppling the new Iraq or subverting it to Iranian control is beyond the capability of the Qods or the Shi'ite militias in Iraq.

Strange assertion, like many in this post, which seems unaware of the tight working relationship between the Shiite Islamist parties that have won democratic power in Iraq and the Iranian regime.

Here's a different take on Iran and Shiite militias:,1,4171570.story
Concerns rise over Iran-backed militias in Iraq
By Liz Sly

Tribune staff reporter

12:02 AM CST, February 29, 2008

BAGHDAD — U.S. military officials are voicing increasing concern that Iranian-backed Shiite militants are stepping up their activities in Iraq, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prepares to make a historic visit to Baghdad that is expected to reinforce Iran's expanding influence.

The U.S. military refers to the shadowy, cell-like structures operated by Shiite extremists as Special Groups and says their precise relationship with Iran's government isn't clear. The U.S. military is certain, however, that they receive arms, training and funding from the Quds Force, the elite and secretive foreign-operations wing of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps.

"We don't assess necessarily that the central government of Iran is behind this but we are certain there are elements, including the Quds Force, who continue to train, finance and equip these people," said senior military spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith.

Recent U.S. discoveries of Iranian weapons caches have fueled suspicions that Iran is continuing to funnel weapons to the militants, though the U.S. military has not intercepted any weapons crossing the border.

U.S. officials had hoped that a commitment by Iran, made during a series of unprecedented talks last year between the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors in Baghdad, would reduce Iranian interference in Iraq. But, although violence has sharply fallen in most parts of Iraq, Iran does not appear to have curtailed its activities, officials say.

"They send Iraqis in [to Iran] and put them back on the border like wind-up toys. They're out there roaming around with all this training behind them and they're very lethal," said Smith

3/02/2008 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Gee. IMagine my shock & surprise that a journalist of the dead-tree part of the mainstream media has written a story that Iran is powerful and Iraq is lost.

And then that someone chooses to quote it as if it actually means something.

3/02/2008 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger Coyotl said...

NahnCee said...
And then that someone chooses to quote it as if it actually means something.

Well, Nahncee, either Rear Admiral Gregory Smith really is speaking to reporters (in his official role as Pentagon spokesman) about his concern over Iranian-backed Shiite militias . . . or he isn't and the record can be easily corrected.

What do you think, Nahncee? That the Chicago Trib made the whole thing up, or maybe you just won't believe it until you read it in a blog?

3/02/2008 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

One of the possible - and hoped for - secondary effects of regime change in Iraq was a grand, if incremental, change in regional political equations and a more direct effect on Iran.

Both Clinton and Bush supported a strict interpretation in their enforcement of the conditions placed upon Iraq with the UN resolutions so that even if a Saddam-led Baath regime stayed in power, it in effect would undergo regime change in order to fulfill the conditions. Which is to say, the ultimate goal was never to forcibly remove governments, but for regional governments to change.

With Iran apparently normalizing relations with Iraq, are we finally starting to see a grand change come about?

3/03/2008 04:19:00 PM  

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