>Folks, I see this as a big deal. I have read numerous international articles, within the Arab world and without, and I see this as a concern.
Iraq and Iran spent the better part of the 1980’s fighting over the Shatt al-Arab waterway in the southern part of Iraq. Oil, of course, was the contention.
Saddam became the buddy of the United States, as a way for us to conduct a proxy war against Iran. After all, the fundamentalist Shi’ites in Iran had just overrun our embassy and taken hostages, keeping them for almost a year. Donald Rumsfeld even took it upon himself to engage Saddam directly during this time, helping deliver non-military assistance, agriculture products supposedly. Supposedly, these where then converted over to chemical weapons that Saddam used to kill 200,000 Kurds in the northern part of Iraq.
The U.S. has not been friendly with Iran ever since we supported the overthrow of the theocratic government in 1952, replacing the president with Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. The former government had nationalized the oil industry, taking away the investment that a U.S. oil company had made.
The Iranian President enjoyed two days in Iraq. He announced his visit weeks in advance. While security was high, he appeared to travel with impunity and without much regard for his personal safety. He also appeared to enjoy the personal attention of Jalal Talabani and al-Maliki. He visited several places around Baghdad and Iraq, and also received accommodations outside the Green Zone. President Ahmadinejad enjoys the support of the Shia minority in Iraq, the southern portion of Iraq. Iran supported the Kurds during Iran-Iraq War so the Kurds also appreciated Iran’s attention. The only ones that seemed upset were the Iraqi Sunni Muslims, who are quietly backed by Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
In contrast, President Bush has stayed little more that 4-8 hours at a stretch in Iraq, has not been outside the Green Zone, and only announces his visit after the fact. Granted, he is a bigger “trophy” for opposition forces so requires more security, but it also says a lot about how the U.S. currently viewed, as well.
When all was said and done, Iraq and Iran signed agreements to improve and promote cooperation, cultural and strategic ties.
Iran is, and will continue to be, an important player in stabilizing Iraq, particularly for the Shia.