More on the burgeoning Shi’ite client state of Iran that the democracy project in Iraq has unwittingly helped create. By Louise Roug and Borzou Daragahi in the LA Times, with thanks to Mackie:
‘There cannot be and there should not be relations with security institutions of neighboring states that work against the interests of this new Iraq.’
“” Zalmay Khalilzad U.S. ambassador to Iraq
BAGHDAD “” The Iraqi government is moving to solidify relations with Iran, even as the United States turns up the rhetorical heat and bolsters its military forces to confront Tehran’s influence in Iraq.
Iraq’s foreign minister, responding to a U.S. raid on an Iranian office in Irbil in northern Iraq last week, said Monday that the government intended to transform similar Iranian agencies into consulates. The minister, Hoshyar Zebari, also said the government planned to negotiate more border entry points with Iran.
The U.S. military is still holding five Iranians detained in Thursday’s raid. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said records seized in the raid and statements made by the detainees showed that at least some of them worked for Iran’s intelligence service.
“I don’t think there is any disagreement on the fact that these folks that we have captured are foreign intelligence agents in this country, working with Iraqis to destabilize Iraq and target coalition forces that are here at Iraq’s request,” Casey said Monday.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, added, “We are going after their networks in Iraq.”
Iraqis, who have echoed Tehran’s calls for the U.S. to release the five men, say the three-way standoff that has ensued reveals more about American meddling in Iraqi affairs than about Iranian influence.
“We, as Iraqis, have our own interest,” Zebari said in an interview with The Times. “We are bound by geographic destiny to live with” Iran, adding that the Iraqi government wanted “to engage them constructively.”