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Rapprochement with US Reinforces Iran Hand in Iraq

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By Nicola Nasser*

Iran seems successful in turning the Iraqi "strategic" agreement with the US into a tactical one, while it is succeeding in turning its own tactical accords with Iraq into a strategic bondage of the country.

The burgeoning US-Iran rapprochement will only reinforce this trend to reinforce Iran hand in Iraq.

Therefore, none seems more jubilant than Iraq by the latest indications of rapprochement between the United States and Iran and none seems more on alert to see it through to success.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in a statement issued by his office on September 29 "hailed" what he described as "a great breakthrough" and a "victory" in the US-Iran relations, said he was "very optimistic" and pledged, according to Xinhua "that Iraq is ready to play a role to push forward the positive development" between the very two countries, which have been the "enemies" of Iraq and its war adversaries for decades now and which most Iraqis hold responsible and accountable for their current miseries.

Al-Maliki's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, in an interview with The Associated Press in New York the next day, revealed that Iraq played a "helpful role" in the development; moreover it aspires to " serve as a bridge of communication and understanding between the two," he said.

Zebari was trying to take a credit that the editorial of the Iranian Bahar daily on last August 23 attributed to the Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said's visit to Tehran earlier that month and to the "role Oman has played" in the past between Iran and the West.

Zebari even seemed so keen to convince the US administration to take "the leadership" of President Hassan Rohani, who was elected in June, and his Iranian government "more seriously" because "they are serious" and "not playing games," contrary of course to the negative reactions of the US Israeli and Arab GCC allies.

Writing in the British Financial Times on last September 27, Geoff Dyer and Najmeh Bozorgmehr expected the US -- Iran rapprochement to "be one of the biggest geopolitical shifts since the cold war."

The US -- led military invasion of Iraq in 2003 pragmatically but counterproductively made the best use of the Iranian vengeance, which was in the waiting for whatever window of opportunity might open to revenge the ceasefire in the eight -- year Iran -- Iraq war, which the late leader and founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) , Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, lamented as " gulping the cup of   poison."

In hindsight, it is very clear now that Iran similarly made its best to violate the ceasefire with Iraq and facilitate the US war on Iraq as a continuation of the Iranian war by proxy; while American soldiers were dying by the thousands and Washington was depleting its budget by billions of tax-payer money spent on its war on Iraq, Iran was reaping the US harvest there quietly but persistently.

When the last of the US troops withdrew from Iraq late in 2011, they left behind in Baghdad a US -- engineered "peace process" led by the same US -- nurtured Iraqi "opposition" whom the US invading troops installed in power eight years earlier, ignoring the fact that this was the same "opposition" nurtured by Iran for a longer period all throughout the more than three decades of late Saddam Hussein rule, who never severed their loyalty to Iran during the US occupation of Iraq.

The real loyalty of the Iraqi rulers to either the US or Iran was blurred until the Syrian conflict made it impossible for them to continue publicly undecided.

US Ambivalent

Until recently, Iraq under PM al-Maliki was posturing as tactically placating Iran on Syria while committing quietly to its Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) , which al-Maliki signed with the former US president George W. Bush on December 14. 2008.

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.

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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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