Is peace even on the agenda?

Chris Gelken

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has returned to Tehran after his landmark two-day visit to Iraq. Feted and warmly welcomed with military bands and honour guards on his arrival in Baghdad, it's hard to believe such a reception would be laid on for the man that Washington accuses of being largely responsible for destabilising Iraq.

 "Well obviously the ruling party in Washington must be seething," author and political analyst Ian Williams told PressTV News,  "This has got to raise serious questions for the American public."

How is it, Williams asked, that after 160,000 mainly American troops and more than 4,000 dead, Western leaders have to sneak in and out of Iraq under cover of secrecy,  "while Iran, the other part of the alleged Axis of Evil, can send its president along a flower strewn route in a motorcade through the streets of Baghdad, and be greeted by the government that the US troops have supposedly put in power?"

Contrasting Ahmadinejad's colourful arrival in Iraq, head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, arrived in Baghdad on an unannounced visit, with his itinerary a closely guarded secret.

Notwithstanding two wars, years of crippling sanctions, and continued occupation, Washington accuses Tehran of  "meddling" and  "interfering" in Iraq, a country with which it shares a 1,500 kilometer border.

 "It seems very odd," Williams said,  "that most of the attacks on the US forces are coming from the Sunni militias and al-Qaeda, and these are the people who it is least likely for the Iranians to be supporting. It's possible that some weapons might come from Iran. But in the end, the aircraft that went into the World Trade Centre were American but they certainly were not directed by the United States."

Iran denies charges that it has been supplying weapons to any groups in Iraq, an assertion flatly rejected by Washington.

With the entire region awash with weapons combined with a long and porous border, the possibility that sympathetic or criminal elements might be smuggling guns and ammunition is a possibility that, apparently, has not occurred to the Pentagon and White House analysts.

Painting Iran as the culprit for continued instability in Iraq, on the other hand, appears to suit Washington policy-makers.

 "It's a claim the Bush administration is going to make because it wants to avoid confronting the reality that it actually has to talk to the Iranian leadership and come to some sensible provisions for the region. It's very difficult for them to admit that. They are ideologically incapable of it at the moment," Williams told PressTV.

Government statements from Baghdad say talks between Ahmadinejad and Iraqi leaders focused mainly on economic, political and security issues  — all areas where the United States has considerable influence or vested interests.

In a separate interview, Mahmoud Othman, member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, told PressTV's Middle East Today that with warnings from Washington to be wary of Iran on the one hand, and accusations from Tehran that the United States is to blame for the insecurity in Iraq on the other, Baghdad needs to tread a fine line in order to maintain a balance.

 "I think the Iraqi leadership is stuck in between the conflict between Iran and America and obviously both countries have their influence in Iraq. That is why Iraq has tried to arrange meetings between the two countries," he said.

Speaking on the same edition of Middle East Today, Professor of Politics and head of the Department of American Studies at Tehran University, Seyed Mohammad Marandi said from Tehran's perspective it seems Washington is determined to maintain its hostile policy towards Iran.

 "But this is not really in the interests of the United States," he said,  "If Iraq is to stabilize, and if the American government wants Iraq to stabilize, then the most important neighbor Iraq has is Iran because of its very long borders and because of the economic potential that exists between the two countries."

But according to Williams, Iraq's mediation efforts are unlikely to bear fruit in the short term.

 "I don't think it's the beginning of a rapprochement in itself," he told PressTV News,  "I think wiser heads in Washington might draw some lessons from it and say we really have to deal with this."

Williams noted that Iran has previously been remarkably cooperative in both Afghanistan against the Taliban and in Iraq against Saddam Hussein,  "and the United States at the time did not grasp those opportunities."

Closer ties with Iran would be at odds with Washington's policies toward Israel, Williams said, and blamed a stubborn inability to admit past mistakes for the continued stand-off.

 "There are elements in Washington that refuse to admit that they've been wrong, that they basically either were having illusions or pipe dreams about the whole Axis of Evil to begin with, and there's this bedrock reluctance to engage sensibly with Iran."

Williams was speaking on the eve of a United Nation's Security Council meeting today which imposed further sanctions on Iran over its nuclear activities.

 "Sadly," Williams said,  "when you look at the resolutionary creep at the United Nations it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that some people in Washington still want to see a confrontation with Iran."