Recent news stories reveal an Iranian regime eager to assert hegemony over neighboring Iraq and less willing to accommodate U.S. efforts to promote the stability needed to pull out 20,000 troops by July.
- Iraqi officials announced that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will travel to Iraq on March 2 for a visit of two to three days to discuss bilateral relations.
- Iran postponed the fourth round of trilateral talks with the U.S. and Iraq to discuss ways to improve Iraq's security. Mirembe Nantongo, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said:
"We are happy to sit down for the talks, but it is increasingly clear Iran is not. We've been ready to participate for weeks." Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the Iranians did not provide a reason for the postponement. (See In a First, Ahmadinejad To Visit Iraq Next Month: Iran Postpones Fourth Round of Talks With U.S..)
- Lieutenant-General Ray Odierno, the outgoing deputy to General David Petraeus and soon to be Army Vice-Chief of Staff expressed concern about Iranian influence on Iraq:
“I think Iran wants a weak Iraq....They want a weak government of Iraq. It is probably in their best interests.”(See Surge general accuses Tehran of backing militias to weaken Iraq.)
- The U.S. military linked the explosions in an open-air market in Sadr City to the Iranian-backed Special Groups. (See Special Groups behind Sadr City bombing.)
Yossef Bodansky's hypothesis -- discussed in this space yesterday
-- that the U.S. and Iran had cut a deal signaled by the December release of the NIE report -- is looking increasingly far-fetched. Not so, alas, his fears of increased Iranian dominance in the Gulf.
Labels: David Petraeus, Iran, Iraq, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ray Odierno, Yossef Bodansky