UNITED NATIONS - While the United States has repeatedly accused Iran of providing
lethal weapons to Shi'ite militias, last week, U.S. officials once again failed
to provide solid evidence for this charge, raising questions about the actual
level of Iran's meddling in Iraq.
Last Wednesday, Alejandro Daniel Wolff, deputy permanent U.S. representative
to the UN, accused Tehran of funneling lethal weapons into Iraq. "During
the recent operations in Basra, Sadr City, and Maysan, Iraqi troops uncovered
convincing evidence that Iranian lethal aid has continued to flow into Iraq,"
Iran called the allegations "absurd" and a "routine practice"
on the part of the U.S. "Whereas Iran has proved, time and again, its
good intention to help Iraq's stabilization, development, and prosperity through
close cooperation with the Iraqi government in different fields as well
as to help Iraqi people overcome their immense difficulties the U.S.
government unwarrantedly insists on its unacceptable behavior in scapegoating
others, including Iran, for its own wrong policies in Iraq," Mehdi Danesh
Yazdi, Iran's ambassador to the UN, responded in a statement.
Those mistakes include "the continuation of the presence of foreign forces
in the country and certain wring policies and practices on the part of foreign
forces there," Yazdi explained.
Meanwhile, Iraqi officials who enjoy a close relationship with their Shi'ite
neighbor have ignored the U.S. accusations, believing that if anything can
make Iraq secure, it is diplomacy and negotiation with regional governments.
Hamid al-Bayati, permanent representative of Iraq to the UN, who did not specifically
comment on the U.S. representative's allegations, told IPS that there are "terrorists"
who are coming across the borders and Iraq's neighbors could scrutinize these
people and put more control on their borders expanding the circle of
countries who are responsible for the current security situation in Iraq.
"There is a mechanism which is agreed between Iraq and these countries,
on what these countries can do through the meeting of interior ministers of
these countries, through the expanded neighboring countries conferences which
took place in Kuwait and anther one that is going to take place in Jordan in
fall," Bayati added. "We are going to continue these negotiations
through diplomatic channels."
Iraq is viewed by many as a proxy for Iran-U.S. hostilities over the past
four years, and Iranian officials have called the U.S. presence in Iraq the
main reason for sectarian violence. Iraqis have asked both countries not to
use Iraqi soil for their proxy war.
When asked whether an improvement in Iran-U.S. relations could help boost
security in Iraq, Bayati told IPS that Iraq facilitated three rounds of meetings
between Iran and the U.S. inside Iraq and hoped that a fourth round
which was postponed would take place. "We hope that any improvement
in the relationship between Iran and the U.S. will help the situation in Iraq,"
On the Iranian side, U.S. allegations have been questioned for lack of solid
evidence. "It is noteworthy that despite these groundless allegations,
to date no single credible evidence has ever been presented to substantiate
them," Yazdi stated in response to the recent U.S. claims of Iran's
destructive role in Iraq. "To the contrary, several high ranking Iraqi
officials are on record, stressing Iran's constructive role in the country
and rejecting the solid allegation."
"The United States accuses Iran because the two countries have as yet
not resolved their outstanding disputes," Dariush Zahedi, a research fellow
at the Institute of International Studies in at University of California at
Berkeley, told IPS. "The accusation is designed to stem Iran's rising
regional influence, which the U.S. itself helped to enhance by overthrowing
two of the Islamic republic's most implacable enemies the Taliban and
Saddam [Hussein] regimes."
However, the U.S. claims the activities of Iran's Islamic Republican Quds
force contradicts Iran's public stated policy of supporting the Iraqi government.
"In addition, during these operations, numerous Jish-al-Mahdi militia
fighters and leaders of Jish-al-Mahdi-associated highly trained special groups
fled to Iran, where they received sanctuary," said Wolff in a recent UN
Security Council meeting.
"As far as the U.S. is concerned, the accusation has the advantage of
undermining Iran's image in the eyes of Iraqi Shi'ites by blaming Iran for
the nefarious activities of the discredited elements in the Mahdi Army,"
explained Zahedi about the nature of U.S. claims against Iran.
"The allegations are also designed to provide credence for America's
narrative that depicts Iran as a deceitful, untrustworthy, and hypocritical
power which, while professing to support the central government in Baghdad,
trains, funds, and arms [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki's enemies,"
"Iran's role in Iraq is a byproduct of U.S.-Iran relations," Karim
Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
in Washington, told IPS. "When U.S-Iran relations have stalled, Iran's
role in Iraq would likely be unconstructive and when U.S.-Iran relations are
cooperative, then Iran's role in Iraq might be cooperative. It doesn't necessarily
mean that the U.S. has to pull out from Iraq."
While U.S. officials accuse Iran of destabilizing Iraq, some analysts say
the fact that the sectarian violence in Iraq has diminished although
not extinguished since the U.S. troop "surge" is partially
because of Iran's positive role in supporting Maliki's government, a fact that
is ignored by the U.S.
"The security situation has improved, not simply because of the surge,
but because of a host of other factors, including the successful completion
of ethnic cleansing in key areas and America's success in buying-off former
Sunni insurgents," Zahedi told IPS.
Improved "economic conditions, the improving performance of the Iraqi
military, the decision on the part of Iran to lend greater support to the Iraqi
central government instead of Shi'ite militias, as well as blunders on the
part of al-Qaeda and setbacks suffered by Moqtada al-Sadr" are also key
factors, according to Zahedi.
Regardless of neighboring countries' involvement, the mistrust between the
Kurds and the Arabs on the one hand and the Shi'ites and the Sunnis on the
other still runs deep in Iraq and, without the requisite political reconciliation,
has the potential of unleashing strong centrifugal forces that can once again
transform Iraq into a failed state.
(Inter Press Service)