When President George W. Bush never stops repeating that "success in Iraq is necessary for the security of the United States" (1) and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledges "full security" (2) for Bush's Iraqi regime, one could not but wonder whether Iran and the U.S. are in collusion or in collision in Iraq.
Jumping from a red carpet reception to another from Washington to Tehran in less than two months raises questions about the role of al-Maliki's government as well as about the widely-reported verbal collision and the de facto cooperation, or at least coordination, in Iraq between Iran and the U.S., which have no diplomatic ties since the Islamic revolution swept away a pro-U.S. regime in Tehran in 1979.
On July 26, al-Maliki addressed the Americans. "When (Iraqi and American) blood mixes together in the field, aiming to achieve one goal, this blood will help in establishing a long-lasting relationship between us. Our relationship will stay forever," he said. 47 days later he addressed the Iranians after talks he described as "very constructive" and called Iran "a very important country, a good friend and brother," Al-Maliki said.
Only a magician or the leader of a nation of the weight of the former USSR could reconcile and mobilize the resources of ostensibly two antagonists like the U.S. world great power and the Iranian regional great power to serve his country's interests at the same time, which al-Maliki is not.
A third more realistic interpretation is that both powers have converging agendas in the wretched country and have, in an ironic moment of history, worked either together or in harmony to bring to power in Baghdad a government that both bombastically claim as their own and both describe as democratically representative of the people whose independence, state, territorial integrity, resources and historical cultural identity they are unmercifully ravaging.
And none argues that al-Maliki's government is at the same time pro what Washington dubs as the Iranian "axis of evil" and what Tehran labels as the U.S. "Great Satan."
"We will complete the (U.S.) mission (in Iraq). It's in our interest," Bush said in July and his Iranian counterpart pledged on Tuesday: "Iran will give its assistance to establish complete security in Iraq because Iraq's security is Iran's security." Doesn't this complementary roles sound as if Iran and the U.S. have a joint venture in Iraq!
However both nations continue their verbal exchanges over Iraq, which smokescreen their negation on the ground.
Commenting on Ahmadinejad's pledge of "full security" cooperation with Iraq, and his call on the "unwanted (U.S.) guests (to) leave the region" and not Iraq only, White House spokesman Tony Snow said: "We just have to take a look at precisely what it means," suggesting that Tehran was "part of the problem" in Iraq. (3)
But the Arabs and not the U.S. administration are the ones who have real interest to know what the Iranian leader meant!
Iran's passivity and de facto coexistence with the U.S.-led NATO presence in Afghanistan only serves as a precedent to Arab sceptics.
Leaving alone Arab ideological or political antagonists, Iran's Arab friends, Arab advocates of Islamic fraternity with Iran and Arab defenders of a joint Pan-Arab-Iranian front against foreign hegemony in the region owe Tehran an interpretation that clarifies its role in Iraq, where its Arab credentials are essentially made, without of course marginalizing Iran's controversial contributions to the Arab Israeli conflict which need a separate review.
The Arab-Iranian future cooperation, especially with the GCC countries, the Syrian-Iranian 25-year old regional coordination which the U.S.-led western strategists are currently strenuously looking for ways to break it, Iranian involvement with Lebanese and Palestinian resistance movements, and the maintenance of the regional political stability, which historically was based on the peaceful coexistence among Islamic theologies, all depend on this overdue Iranian interpretation.
Among important non-Iranian factors, the Arab perception of the threat emanating from Tehran's intention to "export" its Islamic revolution have alerted the regional status quo, pushed the incumbent regimes to emergency measures of self-defense, and finally engulfed the region in an eight-year bloody war.
The perception is still lingering on and the "export" of revolution is still in the horizon, and the antagonists are confirming publicly while protagonists are secretly struggling against their doubts that Tehran is espousing a sectarian agenda, leading some regional capitals to warn against an emerging Middle East anti-regional status quo and anti-American Shiite arch.