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Iraq has announced that it is seeking closer military ties to Iran. Citing profound historical, cultural and religious bonds between the two nations, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s declared that Iraq would soon expand military ties with Iran. According to Maliki, the creation of an Iraq-Iran alliance would serve to strengthen and ensure stability in the region. This Iraqi move is a grievous affront to those Americans killed and wounded at the hands of Iranian funded, armed and trained terrorist insurgents.
Maliki’s argument that Iran is a stabilizing force may mystify those thousands of Iraqis who since 2004 have been on the receiving end of sectarian violence unleashed on them by Iran’s terrorist proxies. In fact, despite Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s pledge to cut off such support, the Department of Defense continues to assert that there has been no “identified decrease in Iranian training and funding of illegal militias in Iraq.”
Of course, that fact hasn’t escaped Maliki, who himself in 2009 was accusing Iran of providing weapons — including shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles — to insurgent groups within Iraq. Most disturbingly, Iranian armaments have been used with devastating force against American and coalition forces, including IEDs and EFPs, the most deadly of weapons used by insurgent forces in Iraq.
Since 2003, 4,452 American military members have been killed and 32,102 wounded fighting for Iraqi freedom. The fact that most of those killed and wounded came at the hands of Iranian proxies makes Iraq’s announcement all the more reprehensible.
Unfortunately, Maliki’s announcement should cause little surprise as Iraq has been quite busy laying the groundwork for an economic and political partnership with the Islamist Republic. While it remains to be seen if Iraq ends up as just another Iranian proxy state, it certainly has taken the first tentative steps down that road.
For example, the two nations have signed a series of economic pacts, the most recent being a 5-year deal that calls for Iran to supply Iraq with 25 million cubic meters per day of natural gas. While on the international front, Iraq has parroted the Iranian foreign policy line, in particular in its condemnation of the Persian Gulf States and their crackdown on Shiite dissidents.
Not surprisingly, Iran feels bullish about its former enemy now turned close friend. That view was on display when Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a top Iranian lawmaker, said Iran and Iraq have “ample capacities for cultural, economic and political cooperation.”
For its part, the Iraqis have become so enamored by its Persian neighbor that Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was compelled to urge the entire Arab League to join in, saying they should “utilize Iran’s strengths through active cooperation and engagement.”
Unfortunately, Iraq’s flirtation with Iran comes as the US prepares to meet the December 2011 deadline for the complete withdrawal of its remaining 47,000 troops from Iraq. In addition to the military departure, America is also scheduled to pullout 63,000 contractors, close 100 bases and remove one million pieces of equipment by the same December deadline.
While Maliki has promised to discuss a possible extension with Iraq’s Parliament, he set the bar very high. To that end, he has repeatedly said he will not agree to an extension unless at least 70% of Iraq’s political parties and parliamentary blocs agree. Given that Iraqi public opinion strongly favors an uninterrupted American exit, it seems a US departure is now all but guaranteed.
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