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Rapprochement with US Reinforces Iran Hand in Iraq

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Al-Maliki's government was on record in its support of a political negotiated settlement of the Syrian conflict and against any military solution thereto as well as in its opposition to "foreign intervention" in Syria, US strike whether "limited" or unlimited against it, arming Syrian rebels or facilitating their mission with logistics, Arab League's suspension of its membership, imposing unilateral Arab, US and EU sanctions on the country, and Arab League's and US president Barak Obama's calls for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to "step down," thus allying itself with the Russia, China and Iran.

Raymond   Tanter, president of the US Iran Policy Committee, writing in The Hill on last September 20, labeled the "The Baghdad regime" a "naysayer" and " evildoer" ally of the US and wondered " of what value is one of the largest U.S. embassies in the world if American diplomats cannot persuade the Iraqi regime" to commit to its SFA accord.

Nonetheless, the US seems ambivalent.

 
Iraqi PM Maliki and US Prresident Obama shake hands in Washington, D.C. in 2011 by google images

On last September 14 Ramesh Sepehrrad noted in a UPI report that, " More often than not, Washington hesitates to hold Baghdad accountable" for its Syria stance.

Early enough however, President Obama provided an explanation: The difference between the U.S. and Iraqi responses to the Syrian conflict were simply "tactical disagreements," Obama said on December 12, 2011, quoted by CBS News, adding he had "absolutely no doubt" that the Iraqi "naysaying" was " not based on considerations of what Iran would like to see." The US president, like his predecessor Bush, trusts al-Maliki, but if he did not he could nonetheless count on the bilateral strategic SFA to rein him in.

Before the US-Russian latest deal on the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal, Washington, pursuant to the SFA, asked Baghdad to monitor the Iraqi airspace throughout the duration of the planned US strikes on Syria, to prevent Iran from using it, an Iraqi military source told al-Arab London-based daily on last September 10.

As recently as last August 15, al-Maliki's Foreign Affairs Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, co-chaired with his American counterpart, John Kerry, the meeting in Washington, D.C. of the Political and Diplomatic Joint Coordination Committee (JCC), which was established as a result of the SFA. They agreed to convene the next JCC in Baghdad.

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In the joint statement issued after the meeting, " Both delegations emphasized their commitment to close and ongoing security cooperation, noting in this regard the Memorandum of Understanding on security cooperation signed at the Defense and Security JCC in December 2012, the inaugural U.S.-Iraq Joint Military Committee (JMC) hosted by U.S. Central Command in June 2013."

However, this US strategic confidence is almost daily contested in Iraq.

T he Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi was in Tehran on last September 26 signing with his Iranian counterpart Brigadier General Hussein Dehqan a bilateral defense agreement, which the Iranian Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani said Iran was ready "to expand " at the strategic level in all fields, according to www.tasnimnews.com on the same day.

 

The previous day, Sarah Bertin, a researcher at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C., wrote, commenting on al-Dulaimi's visit: "Iraq is once again drifting into Iran's orbit."

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A few days later the Fars news agency reported that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) commander of Navy forces Ali Fadavi and his Iraqi counterpart Ali Hussein Ali signed a MoU on naval cooperation agreement .    

 

Last October, the then Iranian Minister of Defense Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi and al-Dulaimi signed a document of bilateral cooperation in the defense field.

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

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