It's been more than half a year since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad embarked on a historic trip to Baghdad, accusing the United States of fueling the violence in Iraq and portraying his nation as a close friend of the neighbor it once fought in a bitter eight-year war.
"The Iraqi people do not like the Americans," Ahmadinejad said back then at a press conference with U.S.-backed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
A few days ago, the Iranian president called on Iraqis to reject a security agreement which would allow U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for three years. Ahmadinejad stated that Iraq could defend itself and block the influence of foreigners. But U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed his claim and told reporters Thursday in Mexico that Iraqis can defend their interests without the input of Iranians.
Who is she kidding?
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iranian influence in Iraq has been growing steadily, and is closely tied to the Shi'ite parties who dominate Iraq's government. The Iranian government has been actively seeking to derail the security agreement by orchestrating opposition rallies and attempting to bribe Iraqi politicians.
However, the problem goes beyond political influence. Iranian money and arms have been pouring into Iraq through the largely unguarded Iraqi-Iranian border. The U.S. military recently arrested an Iraqi general at the Iranian border carrying large sums of cash intended to finance efforts to derail the agreement. The general has known ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Iranian money and arms have been finding their way to two primary Iraqi Shi'ite groups: Asaib-al-haq and Kataib Hezbollah. Both groups have been accused of recent assassinations and kidnappings against pro U.S Shi'ites. Unlike Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, (also funded by Iran), these groups receive their direct orders from Iranian elements and are modeled after the Lebanese Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the United States warned of "real consequences" for Iraq if it rejects the newly negotiated security pact. Without a deal, U.S. military operations could be forced to end. But the real consequences for Iraqi leaders are the anger and the wrath of militant Shi'ite groups and the many Iraqis who demand an end to what they consider foreign military occupation. An Iraqi government spokesman recently lashed out at the United States and warned that Iraq would not be bullied into signing a security pact.
Will Maliki push the security agreement through the Iraqi Parliament? In all probably, yes- but not before modifications were made to the original agreement, or prior to the outcome of the U.S. elections.
A few days ago, Joe Biden was criticized when he warned that America's enemies would test Barack Obama with an international crisis within six months if elected president. He is half correct -- Obama will be tested, but America's enemies do not have to manufacture a new crisis. The international crisis already exists in Iraq, and it will be Obama's first test: the battle between Bush's Shi'ites and Ahmadinejad's Shi'ites.
Jamal Dajani produces the Mosaic Intelligence Report on Link TV
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