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A Map of Iraq's 'Neighborhood'; Iraqi Prime Minister Jaafari, left, meets Iran's President Khatami

Iraq May Have to Choose its Neighbors Over Washington

While the United States has the luxury of changing its policies when it suits its strategic interests, Iraq must deal with the geographic facts of life, and build an amicable, long-term relationship with its neighbors, especially Iran.

By Fatih Abdulsalam

July 25, 2005

Original Article (English)    

Dissipating the hostility of our neighbors is more important than dissipating the hostility of the United States. But the question is, can we win the friendship of our neighbors and at the same time remain in love with Washington?

The balance is extremely difficult and it may be hard to persuade Iraqis of the practicality of such equilibrium.

It seems that our neighbors have the capacity to heal our wounds. We cannot change our country's geographical position. Whether we like it or not, for good or ill we have to deal with our six neighbors: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iran.

For this reason, there have been so many interpretations of the outcome of this month's visit to Iran by Prime Minister Ibrhabim al-Jaafari.

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The eight-year war with Iran, which for all practical purposes ended in 1988, technically continues, since the truce the two countries agreed to has never been followed by a peace treaty.

But the U.S. occupation of Iraq has created new realities that will shape our country's relations with Iran for decades to come, and so the issues outstanding between Iraq and Iran are no longer a purely bilateral affair.

The solution of any one of these issues will first have to be scrutinized by and dealt with by the United States, Iraq's occupier and sponsor. Similarly, the U.S. must now weigh its relations and issues with Iran in the light of its problems and successes in Iraq.

The U.S. occupation has rather complicated the issue of Iraq's relations vis-a-vis its neighbors, mainly Iran.

Certainly, how to heal past wounds with Iran was not all that was on Jaafari's mind. In his talks with Iranian leaders, American-Iranian differences must have been high on the agenda, albeit not publicly.

It was good to hear that Jaafari signed a number of security agreements with Iran. That is exactly what good neighbors should do. But the question is whether the pacts can endure with the changing personalities and alliances in Baghdad.

We fear that what has been achieved during the visit is temporary and linked to the current shaky balance of power in Baghdad.

Whereas agreements should be made to withstand the winds of political change, such commitments from Baghdad may not yet be possible, as the Iraqi political scene is volatile and prone to dramatic transformations.

So far there are no indications that anything the current government has done has had long-term objectives in mind.

The pragmatic U.S. will not hesitate to change its Iraq agenda if its strategic interests require it. But Iraq must have long-term policies with its neighbors, namely Iran.


— Al-Arabiya TV (Dubai): Iranian Women Become 'Martyrdom Seekers, 40,000 Human Time Bombs', July 7, 00:08:18, MEMRI

“The American's oppressive, inhuman, and undemocratic behavior in recent years has led to the creation of martyrdom-seeking movements everywhere.”

A Member of Iran's Female Martyrdom Seekers

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