Iraqi President Says Country Needs Iran's Help
PRAGUE, November 28, 2006 (RFE/RL) --
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is in the Iranian capital for a two-day visit
that is expected to focus on security as violence continues to plague his own
Iraqi President Talabani (center) with Iranian President
and Ayatollah Khamenei
Talabani was forced to delay
the trip for two days as Baghdad, under curfew, mourned attacks that killed more
than 200 people.
But the Iraqi president arrived on November 27
and has since met with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
After his meeting with Ahmadinejad,
Iranian state television quoted Talabani as saying his country is in dire need
of Tehran's help to establish security and stability in Iraq.
Ahmadinejad said Iran will stand beside Iraq and provide any help it can to
end the escalating violence in Iraq.
believe a secure, advanced, and powerful Iraq will be in line with the interests
of the Iraqi nation -- and also in the interests of the Iranian nation and the
whole region," Ahmadinejad said.
Talabani's visit is just the latest high-level
contact between the Iranian and Iraqi governments, whose countries fought a
bloody war in 1980-88.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
visited Tehran in September, highlighting the mending and expansion of mutual
RFE/RL regional analyst Bill Samii says that expanding
cooperation and healthy relations necessitate high-level official
"Iran has shown a great interest in the reconstruction of
Iraq and pilgrimage trade to Shi'a shrines in Iraq, and for Iraqi Shi'ites to
come to Iran," Samii says. "Then they're [also] connecting the Iraqi electricity
grid with the Iranian [power grid]. There is talk of the
provisionof natural gas and oil to Iraq. I think it's
significant that the Iraqi president is visiting Iran. But this is not the first
time he's done so, and I suspect it will not be the last time."
Talabani's visit comes as
some are calling on the United States to engage Iran and Syria to try and stop
the bloodshed in Iraq.
U.S. national security adviser Stephen
Hadley is being quoted today as saying that Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki is
likely to bring up the Iran-Syria issue during his meeting with President Bush
in Jordan on November 29.
Beyond the high-profile nuclear standoff
over Iran's nuclear activities, Washington has accused Iran of influencing
Shi'ite groups in Iraq and encouraging the insurgency.
But Iranian officials
have repeatedly denied meddling in Iraq's internal affairs.
Analysts quoted in today's "The New York Times" suggested that Talabani is
in Iran to urge officials there to speak directly with the United States about
On November 26, President Ahmadinejad said Iran
was ready to help the United States in Iraq -- but only if Washington pledged to
change its attitude and withdraw its troops.
reiterated today that Washington's conditions for talks with Tehran remain
unchanged -- Iran must first suspend its nuclear-fuel enrichment activities.
Bush also said it is up to Iraq to decide whether neighbors Iran and Syria
should be more involved in helping to reestablish security there.
There are suggestions
among observers that Iran might try to use talks with Talabani to assert its
regional role and influence. Iranian officials were said to have invited Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad to join this visit with the Iraqi president, but
al-Assad does not appear to have responded.
Some Iraqi officials
claim that Tehran's latest initiative signals increasing concern over escalating
violence across Iran's 1,500-kilometer border with Iraq.
Vatanka, an analyst and editor of "Jane's Sentinal Security Assessment," tells
Radio Farda that Iran's ability to stem violence in Iraq could be
"The American side, mainly for PR purposes, has
exaggerated Iran's influence over some of the more extreme Shi'a elements in
Iraq," Vatanka says. "I just don't think the Iranians and the Syrians have that
much control over the destiny of Iraq, and I don't think these two countries are
feeding the sectarianism that you see to that extent. I think both Iran and
Syria like to be seen as players that can turn things this way or that way in
Iraq, but they exaggerate for their own purposes. Because clearly they see
themselves as negotiating with the U.S. on a grand bargain that everybody's
Talks with Tehran and Damascus are reportedly among
the recommendations that might emerge from the Iraq Study Group, which was
established to assess the situation in Iraq and advise U.S. policymakers.
On November 27, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that Iraq
has nearly descended into civil war -- or soon could, unless urgent steps are
taken. The White House acknowledged afterward that sectarian violence in Iraq
has entered what it called "a new phase." But a State Department spokesman, Sean
McCormack, rejected the label "civil war" for the situation.
in Tehran, Supreme Leader Khamenei told Talabani that the first step toward
restoring security in Iraq is the departure of U.S. forces.
(Radio Farda broadcaster Niusha Boghrati contributed to this
Copyright (c) 2006 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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