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Bush scuttled Iran's initial efforts to bring peace to Iraq

Press Esc | June 3, 2007 

For the first two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iran's leaders and diplomats sought to persuade all Iraqi Shiite Islamist factions in Iraq to work together through a US-led political process, but the Bush administration scuttled those efforts, the Congressional Research Service reported last week.

Shiites make up about 60% of the population in Iraq virtually ensuring Shiite dominance of an elected government, and to this extent, Iran's goals in Iraq differed little from the main emphasis of US policy in Iraq, which was to set up a democratic process, according to the report's author Kenneth Katzman, State Department's Middle Eastern affairs specialist.

The report revealed that , in December 2005, even before the Baker-Hamilton report was released, the then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad stated that he had received President Bush's approval to undertake negotiations with Iranian counterparts in an effort to enlist Iranian cooperation in Iraq.

Iran agreed to such talks in March 2006, but US officials opposed Iran's efforts to expand such discussions to bilateral US-Iran issues and the Department of Defense decided to go on a diplomatic offensive against Iran.

Soon after rejecting a US-Iran dialogue, then Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace, and then Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Gen. John Abizaid asserted that Iran's Revolutionary Guard — particularly its “Qods (Jerusalem) Forces” that conduct activities outside Iran in support of Shiite movements — is assisting armed factions in Iraq with explosives and weapons.

The Qods Force (Al Quds) is an arm of the Iranian government, but some experts believe it might sometimes undertake actions not fully vetted with senior political leaders.

The latest accusations against Iran were made on April 11, 2007, when U.S. military officials said they had found evidence that Iran might also be supplying Sunni insurgent factions, although without asserting Iranian government approval for the shipments. Some experts believe such shipments would not comport with Iranian government objectives because Sunni insurgents are fighting Iran's protégés and allies in Iraq.

Katzman reported that since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iran has exercised substantial political and economic influence on the Iraqi government, although some of Iran's economic initiatives do not necessarily conflict with the US goal of reconstructing Iraq.

The Bush Administration which did not initially endorse the Iraq Study Group recommendation on engaging Iran as part of a solution in Iraq, in an apparent U-Turn supported and attended an Iraq-sponsored regional conference in Baghdad on March 10, 2007.

US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker attended the Egypt meeting and had some discussions with Mottaki's subordinates, and the two countries subsequently held talks in Baghdad on May 28, 2007, confined to the Iraq issue and attended by Iraqi diplomats.

According to Iranian-state controlled media, the two countries are scheduled to hold another round of discussions in one month's time.


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