Friday, December 05, 2008

Behind the security agreement: An Iranian opening to the US ?

Here is a plausible explanation of why the security agreement was approved by the Maliki administration and the Iraqi parliament, centering on the role of Iran. It is by Mohammed Saeed Idris, an Egyptian journalist writing in the paper AlAwan.

He says the key was a sudden change of direction by the Iranian government following the election of Obama, from outright opposition (even in the face of Maliki's trouble in getting assurances respecting no attacks from within Iraq, and so on) to tacit acceptance.

There were three reasons for the shift, this writer says:

(1) First of all, Washington threatened to leave Iraq at the end of December if the agreement wasn't signed, and that threat succeeded in frightening the leaders of the four-party governing coalition in Baghdad (two Kurdish and two Shiite), and also in frightening the Iranian government. Because they all realized that the four-party regime--and with it the main basis for the Iranian proect in Iraq--would not long survive an American exit. [The writer does not raise this point, but there is an obvious gap in the story here, namely the question how the Americans proposed to retain any of their own influence in Iraq in that case, and I think this could well be where the various hints of US security support for Sunni groups come into the picture, but that is another story. Idriss' point is that the withdrawal-threat, for whatever reason, seems to have been plausible enough to have worked on Iran, in conjunction with the following two additional factors].

(2) Secondly, the Iranian government decided to try for an improved relationship with the US under the Obama presidency, in order among other things to head off a crisis over its nuclear program. Signs of this type of initiative included the letter from Ahmedinejad to Obama in which he said the whole world anticipates concrete and basic changes in American foreign and domestic policies. And the report by the Fars news agency that Ahmedinejad was in fact not among the students involved in the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Tehran; followed by a speech by Rafsanjani implicitly apologizing for the hostage-taking.

(3) Third, the Iranian government feared what might happen as a result of intense Israeli pressure on the new US president.
The third reason [for the Iranian decision to tacitly agree to the security agreement] was the determination to contain the intense Israeli pressure on the Obama admininstration even before it took office, once the Israelis understood the seriousness of the proposals for dialogue between his administration and Iran, especially since Israel had already succeed in forcing Obama to to back on his earlier commitment to Iran [and instead reverted to harsh criticism re support for terror groups, unacceptability of a nuclear arms program, etc].
He refers in particular to a summary document by the Israeli security authorities, leaked by Haaretz, which included the ideas of not abandoning the military "solution," and of trying to prevent any US-Israel dialogue that could result in an arrangement unfavorable to Israel.

Idriss concludes:
The Iranian understanding of this Israeli policy compelled them to take this step of a pre-emptive goodwill initiative by permitting the passage of the Iraqi-US security agreement, in hopes of saving what can be saved of its influence in Iraq, and its ambition of opening a dialogue with the new administration, enabling the finding of an appropriate solution to its nuclear-program crisis, preventing recourse to the military solution. And also to secure [Iran's] regional participation in the area, starting with its participation in Iraq.
Idriss isn't the only Arab writer who senses in this the possibility of an Iranian-American rapprochement. Abdulbari Atwan, writing in AlQuds alArabi right after the Iraqi cabinet approval of the agreement, said this had the odor of the Iranians wagering on a deal with the US, but not as something to be welcomed. He wrote:
The situation in Iraq following this agreement might not be any better than it was before, in fact it could get worse. Because the resistance is there, and is likely to escalate. And it wouldn't be surprising to see the beginnings of unity between the Sunni and the Shiite resistances, against the background of this agreement.

Also, it is still plausible to think that it was a change in the Iranian position, or more precisely a blunting of the sharpness of its opposition to it, that greatly contributed to the passage of this agreement in Parliament, because otherwise how was the governing coalition able to gather all of this support for it?

Is this an indication of a coming Iran-US agreement, to be launched in Iraq? Or have the Iranian wagers in this matter been mistaken?

The coming days will give us the answer to these and other questions.


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It goes without saying that the credit or calling attention to the Idriss piece belongs to LB of RoadstoIraq.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Alamet said...

Badger, earlier you had been asking what other agreements the GZ gov had signed with the US besides SOFA. Did you catch this?

Government signed protocol putting Iraq shores under US control without parliament's approval
“Before approving the security pact, the Iraqi government had signed a protocol with the United States, under which the latter shall protect Iraqi shores overlooking the Persian Gulf as well as merchant ships from piracy,” Ahmed al-Masoudi told Aswat al-Iraq.

4:48 PM  
Blogger badger said...

right. Another diplomatic triumph, looks like...

3:41 AM  

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