Monday, March 10, 2008

Ahmadinajad's visit to Iraq -- a different view

Writing in Frontpage Magazine, Amir Taheri presents a rather different view of Ahmadinajad's visit to Iraq, than Robert Scheer of The Nation described.
Weeks of hard work by Iranian emissaries and pro-Iran elements in Iraq were supposed to ensure massive crowds thronging the streets of Baghdad and throwing flowers on the path of the visiting Iranian leader. Instead, no more than a handful of Iraqis turned up for the occasion. The numbers were so low that the state-owned TV channels in Iran decided not to use the footage at all.

Instead, much larger crowds gathered to protest Ahmadinejad's visit. In the Adhamiya district of Baghdad, several thousand poured into the streets with cries of "Iranian aggressor, go home!"
There may have been protests but it seems that unlike American officials visiting Iraq, Ahmadinejad was still somewhat more secure. Taheri also wrote that:
Ahmadinejad had come to Iraq to show it was an Iranian playground. He ended up by showing that Iran's influence in Iraq is widely exaggerated.
Admittedly, perhaps Iran does not have outright control of Iraq. However, Taheri admits that:
To be sure, Tehran exerts influence through a number of Shiite militias it has recruited, trained and financed for years. And some insurgent groups depend on Iran as their main source of weapons, especially sophisticated explosive devices. Iran also remains Iraq's biggest trading partner and the second-biggest investor in the Iraqi economy. Iranian pilgrims account for more than 90 percent of all foreign visitors in Iraq.
I supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as his apparent weapons of mass destruction combined with his links to terrorists appeared to pose an rather ominous threat in the aftermath of 9/11. However, Iran remains the number one state sponsor of terrorism and it seems to me that the fact that Iraq is willing to be friendly to Iran while Iran is actively killing both our people and Iraqis still seems to me rather bizarre. The fundamental problem, I think, remains the fact that despite 30 years of provocations, we are unwilling to confront Iran directly, which leaves it free to continue to challenge us.

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