Iran’s Attitude towards U.S.-Iraq Agreement Still Unclear

Politics Materials 20 November 2008 12:16 (UTC +04:00)
Iran’s Attitude towards U.S.-Iraq Agreement Still Unclear

Azerbaijan, Baku, 20 November / Trend corr. D.Ibrahimova/ Iran is likely to support the agreement on strategic cooperation between Iraq and the United States, but a member of the Iranian Parliament's Security Commission is not sure about this.

The agreement, which will be discussed at the Iraqi Parliament on Monday, allows U.S. to deploy its troops in the Iraqi territory. "Iran will never support the agreement on strategic cooperation between Baghdad and Washington, if it is approved by the Iraqi parliament," Houssein Nagavi, a member of the Iranian Parliament's Security Commission, said to Trend by e-mail.

Iran's attitude towards the agreement is important because the influence of Iranians on the Iraqi Shiite community is huge, and Iran if desired may influence the domestic situation in Iraq. However, Iranian officials voice contradictory statements. On 18 November, Iranian Parliament's Speaker Ali Larijani criticized the agreement. He said that the U.S. "is seeking to turn Iraq into one of its states," according to Iranian IRNA news agency. Over the past eight months some provisions of the agreement were altered owing to the efforts of the Iraqi Government, writes IRNA. "The Iraqi Parliament must continue to resist," said Larijani. However, Iran's Minister of Justice Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi endorsed the actions of the Iraqi Government. "The Iraqi Government acted rightly," he said at a press conference on 17 November.

The term of mandate of the U.S. troops to stay in Iraq expires on 31 December 2008, but Iraqi troops have not yet been strengthened so as to independently monitor the situation in the country, and therefore Iraq is interested in adopting the agreement. In this regard Iran is playing on two fronts, said Iraqi expert Saleh al-Kaabi. On the one hand, the country hopes that the agreement would be modified and speaks of support, and on the other hand, "even if the agreement is adopted, it does not have an item on use of the Iraqi territory to attack neighbouring states," Iraqi expert on Middle East Affairs Saleh al-Kaabi said to Trend by telephone.

He believes that Iran can support the document. His western colleagues agree with him. "Iran will agree to the adoption of the agreement, because an item on the possibility of using Iraqi land as a staging ground for attacks on neighbouring countries was deleted from the document," Kenneth Katzman, Specialist in Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Congressional Research Service, said to Trend by e-mail.

According to U.S. expert on Iran Mark Katz, Tehran may come to realize that the departure of American troops from Iraq may not necessarily be in Iran's interests.

"Departure of American troops from Iraq may result in an unstable spilling over into Iran," Mark Katz, Professor at George Mason University, said to Trend via e-mail.

Iran does not consider the agreement to be dangerous to it, and will not oppose it for several reasons, believes Iranian expert Mehran Barati, a member of the Berlin research centre. First, after election of Obama as President of the United States, Iran's confidence that the States will not attack it increased. Second, Iran hopes it will be able to find a common language with Americans about the nuclear program, and it does not want these minor problems to create obstacles on this way. "Another reason is that Iran does not want its relations with Iraq to deteriorate, and does not want to discredit the Iraqi Government in the eyes of the Iraqi people," said Barati.

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