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Free of US, Iraq Cozies Up to Iran, Descends into Chaos

In a meeting with the Iraqi Minister for Antiquities and Tourism in Tehran on Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Minister emphasized their two countries’ close religious and cultural history and ever-closer political relationship. A day later, in Baghdad, Iran’s oil minister put pen to paper on a $15 billion deal to supply natural gas to Iraq’s beleaguered energy sector.

The deal makes a lot of sense for both countries. Iran has struggled to export its oil and gas because of sanctions; Iraq’s electrical grid, beset by frequent blackouts, is thirsty for fuel.

The deal is also a political message: the Maliki regime in Baghdad, free from US influence, has cozied up to Tehran. But with the Syrian civil war dragging on and sucking in all the neighbors, including Iran, Maliki and some Iraqi religious leaders like Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani are trying but failing to keep Iraqis from being drawn in.

Though Tehran has pushed continuously to get Iraq to fully support Assad, Maliki has demurred. In the western part of Iraq, influential Sunni tribes fight alongside the Syrian rebels and the Iraqi security forces too. Religious fault lines in Iraq are again becoming extremely violent. Car bombs, suicide attacks, and coordinated assassinations have become almost as common in Iraq now as they were during the dark days of the civil war. Dozens die in almost daily attacks—on mosques, on roadblocks manned by soldiers, on enemy militias. Just yesterday, for instance, al-Qaeda fighters armed with booby-trapped cars, rocket-propelled grenades, and suicide vests attacked Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons near Baghdad, according to the Iraqi police freeing more than 500 prisoners, many of whom were senior members of al-Qaeda.

The gas deal is a sign that Maliki doesn’t intend to let American priorities guide his relationship with Tehran. But at least Iraqis will soon have better access to electricity. There is little else happening that counts as good news.

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  • rheddles

    Don’t forget the jailbreaks:

    Hundreds of inmates have escaped from two Iraqi prisons after gunmen stormed two jails near Baghdad.

    Fighting raged for several hours after the jails – Abu Ghraibto the west of the capital and Taji to the north – came under attack.

    Mortar fire and suicide bombs were used to gain access to the jails, whose inmates include al-Qaeda prisoners.

    At least 20 members of the security forces were killed as they struggled to regain control.

    A senior Iraqi MP, Hakim Al-Zamili, said that about 500 prisoners had escaped from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

    Most of them were senior members of al-Qaeda who had been sentenced to death, he told Reuters news agency.

    Who needed that SOFA anyway?

    • Thirdsyphon

      Yes, if only we’d gotten a SOFA in place, Iraq’s intractible sectarian strife could still be America’s problem to deal with.

      • rheddles

        And it would have been a lot easier to do with those 500 alQ thugs in the jug. Now we just get to live with the consequences without any input.

      • Corlyss

        One of the monumental policy failures produced by GW Bush’s faint-heartedness and Obama’s mau-mauing the war. A debacle equal to the panicked flight from Saigon in 1975.

        • Thirdsyphon

          Good point. That’s another war that we could still be waging. . . and whose bright idea was it to let the British Empire off the hook in 1815?

          • Corlyss

            You mean who let ’em up while we had ’em on their backs on the ground waling the tar out of ’em? LOL Well, if they ever got free of that annoying little Corsican, they might have had time to really make us hurt.

  • Change Iran Now

    Good points. Especially at the prospect of a widening Syrian war that threatens the entire region. Iran’s leaders have few friends in the region and are eager to do whatever they can to protect the few they have and recruit as many others as they can. I hope Iraq continues to resist and even more hope that the influx of arms from the US and the West will eventually convince Iran it can’t win this kind of proxy war and to leave Assad to deal with his own people without interference from outside nations. Iran has enough of its own problems with government policies that have led to hyperinflation and massive unemployment. Regime change is really the only true alternative to what is going on in Iran.

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